BY ROGER THOMAS
There have been a few films through the years which demonstrated a gift for mathematics. Two of those have won the “Best Picture Oscar.”
The first one was “Rain Man,” which tells a fictional tale of an autistic individual who is brilliant when it comes to counting and calculating mathematical problems. Dustin Hoffman played the title character and won his second “Best Actor Oscar” for his portrayal.
Eleven years later “A Beautiful Mind” told the story of real-life mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who struggled with schizophrenia. This film won “Best Picture” but Russell Crowe as Nash did not win “Best Actor.” He had won the year before for “Gladiator” and the Academy was just not ready to award him again so soon.
I raise the issue of films about math because there is another one playing in theaters now: “The Accountant” starring Ben Affleck. Affleck has given the film world great work through the years. He holds two Oscars: One for the screenplay of “Good Will Hunting” which he co-wrote with Matt Damon and the other Oscar as one of the three producers of “Argo,” a film that Affleck also directed and starred in. Beyond these accomplishments are his performances in other films such as “Gone Girl,” “Changing Lanes” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
However, this latest film about math and starring Ben Affleck, is not one of the better contributions to the history of film.
“The Accountant” is not a film that offers comfort. There are very few moments of calmness or humor. Perhaps the most comedic moment is when Affleck’s character, Christian Wolff, does the taxes for an older couple. Who would have thought that taxes could be funny? Later on Wolff fends off an assassin who wants to harm Wolff and the couple who were previously needing tax advice. That is the extent of humor and emotion in the whole film.
Overall the film has is a lot of gunplay. I am not opposed to films with violence. I recently described the new “Magnificent Seven” as a fun film even though a lot of bullets fly in the film. “The Accountant” is 95% fun-free. In fact the film is actually sad and depressing, but not in a powerful way like a good tearjerker; it is just a film that creates very few true emotions at all.
There are also flashbacks that involve some of the characters as children; these scenes offer mostly disturbing images. Those images is just other examples of how dense and harsh this film is.
Anna Kendrick’s character, and by the way she is a fine actress, becomes a friend to Wolff, at least as close a friend as Wolff is capable of having. Their relationship also offers very little light in a very dark film.
There is also a lot of talk about numbers. There is a scene where Wolff is trying to solve an accounting problem for a large corporation that manufactures prosthetic limbs among other things. Wolff writes up numbers all over the wipe boards and windows. That scene made me think of John Nash and “A Beautiful Mind.” So perhaps, someone who is inspired by numbers may find more in this film than I did, but I would point them toward the titles above; two films that tell powerful stories with real emotion.
In the end, I found very little to like about this dense and chaotic film. I felt only a slight urge to root for the hero. I was surprised by one twist toward the end, but that was not enough to save the film. The filmmakers should have added more appealing characters for which to root. Or expanded Anna Kendrick’s role. Something to make the audience feel any emotion.
A harsh story, such as this, can sill make one care. However, “The Accountant” never did and that was disappointing.