Review of “The Accountant”

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a CPA working out of a small strip mall office near Chicago, Illinois. Born autistic with an aversion to bright lights, loud sounds and scratchy fabrics, his father, an Army intelligence officer, decides his son must be trained to deal with what the real world is like. He exposes his autistic son to the things that make him uncomfortable in an effort to build up a kind of psychological callous. He has the boy and his younger brother, who is not autistic, take brutal martial arts training as well as becoming excellent marksmen. After getting in a scrape with the law, Christian does time in federal prison where he meets Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor) who was the bookkeeper for a major crime family. Francis takes a liking to Christian and, realizing his unique mental challenges and gifts, teaches him about how to launder dirty money. Christian becomes the forensic bookkeeper for drug cartels, crime syndicates and terrorist groups, able to track down where any missing money has gone. Frequently seen in surveillance photographs but in ways that makes him difficult to identify, Christian comes to the attention of the head of the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division Ray King (J.K. Simmons). He is quickly approaching retirement and wants to identify the underworld’s accountant. He puts analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) on the job threatening to expose she lied on her federal application about juvenile felony convictions to give her incentive to work quickly. Meanwhile, Christian is asked to check out the books at Living Robotics, a high-tech company that specializes in prosthetics for amputees, consumer electronics and military items. It is owned by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow) and his sister Rita (Jean Smart). Staff accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) has found an irregularity in the books but can’t quite figure out what is wrong. Christian is brought in and, after spending all night going through 15 years of accounts, deposits and invoices, discovers $61-million is missing. That night, the Chief Financial Officer of Living Robotics, Ed Chilton (Andy Umberger), is visited at his home by a mysterious man (Jon Bernthal) who tells Ed to overdose on the insulin he takes for his diabetes or his wife will be violated and murdered in front of him. The next day, Christian arrives at Living Robotics, is told that Chilton is dead and finds all the files he was working on have been taken away. Despite his pleas to finish his job Lamar Blackburn pays him and tells him it is over. To relax, Christian goes target shooting at the farm of one of his regular clients. Several men break in and order the couple to call Christian into the house with the intent of killing him. Christian turns to the tables and takes out all the attackers and questions the last one living about who sent him. The man shows Christian a photo of Dana and says he was ordered to kill them both. Christian heads to pick up Dana and the pair go on the run from whoever is trying to clean up hornet’s nest they discovered at Living Robotics.

“The Accountant” is a version of the superhero myth where the antagonist is born with the power of easily comprehending incredibly difficult math. It doesn’t sound like much of a super power but in the hands of Affleck’s Christian Wolff it becomes the force that leads to a great number of deaths. Adding to his abilities, the character has been studying self-defense since he was young so he is proficient at both martial arts and marksmanship. Both are skills that the autism others see as a defect actually turns out to be a benefit as it gives him a singular focus and a drive to complete a task successfully. There is no “quit” in Christian Wolff as his brain will not allow it. The movie has no quit in it either but sadly the story has been shortchanged by a desire to make it cute and creating some shortcuts that turns the very end of the movie into something rather frustrating.

Ben Affleck is fantastic as Christian Wolff. He plays the hero as a man that does what he does not for fame or for attention but simply because they must be done. He also has a strong sense of morals and loyalty to those that are his friends. Playing a man with autism, Affleck is almost painfully awkward with interpersonal communication. Usually avoiding eye contact, largely devoid of humor and unable to read subtext, Wolff is constantly deemed rude by those that do not know him. His blunt honesty is the only way he knows how to behave. Subtlety is lost on him and you just have to live with it.

It is a refreshing change from most superheroes (including Affleck’s own take on Batman). Even characters like Tony Stark, portrayed as a man that doesn’t care what anyone thinks, is often forced to change course and do what is socially acceptable. Wolff is a singular creation that lives by a unique set of rules that make sense only to him. His training, started by his father as a child and continued by Wolff into adulthood, is a rigid routine that appears nonsensical to the average person but serves a purpose in desensitizing him to the cacophony of sights, sounds and feelings of the everyday world. I’m not sure how the autistic community feels about the way they are portrayed in the film; but the fact we have a hero with autism in a movie that grossed nearly $25-million in its opening weekend can’t be seen as anything but positive.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why Anna Kendrick is in the movie. I suppose her character is meant to be a humanizing compared to Affleck’s but she just seemed to be there to act as comic relief then to be what needed saving. Her character mostly disappears after the first half of the film aside from a brief scene at the end. Perhaps her character had a bigger role in the story but she was cut out in the final edit. She does manage to hold her own when some bad guys bust into her apartment in what must be the dreariest building in Chicago; but her talent largely is wasted in an underwritten and underused part.

As for the ending, I won’t give anything away but there are two bits of information that come out in the last 10 minutes of the film that really bring the movie down a notch. Perhaps one is meant to again humanize the somewhat robotic Christian while the other is supposed to be uplifting and force us to question our assumptions about people with disabilities. Both feel like cheap shortcuts taken to keep from having to figure out more rational explanations and avoid paying for more actors. Both also made me put my head in my hands and ask “why?” Maybe this is too strong a reaction to something that happens in a Hollywood action/thriller but it made what I’d watched and enjoyed before these two reveals seem somehow cheapened.

“The Accountant” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout. There are a number of bloody shootings as well as showing numerous dead bodies. Many of the shooting are head shots that cause a great deal of splatter on the walls. There are a couple of brutal hand-to-hand fights as well. Foul language is scattered.

In a nutshell, I liked “The Accountant” but thought it could have been much better with a little bit more work on the story. This film is clearly an effort to launch a franchise following Christian Wolff, or whatever he decides to call himself next, around the country (or world) as he gets caught up in the middle of various plots and schemes and uses his particular set of skills to right the wrongs of others. He’s not a bad character on which to base a franchise and I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more stories about the autistic bookkeeper. I just hope whoever writes the next one manages to be a bit more creative and realistic at the same time in finishing up the story.

“The Accountant” gets four (almost five) guitars.

Four new films hit screens this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Boo! A Madea Halloween—

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back—

Keeping Up with the Joneses—

Ouija: Origin of Evil—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to


Reviews of “The Other Side of the Door” and “Zootopia”

(Edit:  The audio for my review was messed up so I have deleted it and I do not plan on rerecording.  Sorry for the inconvenience.)

The Other Side of the Door

Michael (Jeremy Sisto) is an antiques dealer based in Mumbai, India. He lives there with his wife Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and their two children Lucy and Oliver (Sofia Rosinsky and Logan Creran). A traffic accident leaves Oliver dead and Maria devastated to the point where she attempts suicide. Their housekeeper Piki (Schitra Pillai-Malik) lost her daughter some years earlier and tells Maria of a way to say a final goodbye to Oliver. There is an abandoned temple far into the country where Maria must spread Oliver’s ashes on the steps then close and lock the door behind her. She will be able to briefly speak with Oliver once the sun goes down but must not, under any circumstances, open the door. Wanting more time with her son, Maria opens the door and allows Oliver’s spirit to cross over from the land of the dead to the living. It accompanies Maria home where strange and disturbing things begin happening.

“The Other Side of the Door” has the elements to be a fair to middling horror movie. It does a pretty good job of establishing a spooky atmosphere, troubled and troubling characters and consequences for not following the rules. What it fails at is capitalizing on the good points with quality scares and involving all the major characters in the meatier parts of the story.

Poor Jeremy Sisto’s character is pretty much done with the story once he impregnates Maria. Left out of or in the dark for the majority of the story, Sisto is only seen occasionally throughout the film as either a hard working or deeply concerned husband and father. Once the supernatural elements begin to develop his Michael is nowhere to be found. When he is brought in near the end of the film, his role is as the doubter that only gets pain and injury for his trouble. Leaving Michael out till the end is like if the “X-Files” kept Mulder and Scully apart until the last five minutes of the episode. Michael could have started skeptical then, as he saw more weirdness, became more of a believer and actually could have helped in the movie’s somewhat messy finale; however, for some reason he is considered as nothing more than an afterthought.

Sarah Wayne Callies is tasked with doing most of the heavy lifting in the movie. She is saddled with the more emotional role and is also the reason all the bad things happen. While Callies may be the best thing about the movie, there is still a kind of vacancy to her performance. Her reactions to weird happenings around her home feel a bit inappropriate at times. A book falls from a shelf and a chair moves near the edge of the dead boy’s bed, encouraging Maria to sit down and read the ghost a story which she happily does. Maybe the character is in shock and is just happy to have something of her child back in her life; however, if it was me I would have run screaming out of the room. There are other odd reactions to the presence of her dead child’s spirit throughout the film.

There has recently been a great deal of talk about diversity in Hollywood and I thought a film set and shot in India would probably be a showcase for Indian actors. I was wrong. Apart from Suchitra Pillai-Malik playing a housekeeper and a few scattered brief speaking roles, there are no Indians performing in any major parts. While the city of Mumbai and the Indian countryside are briefly displayed, the focus is squarely on the white characters. A few local actors play the parts of a cannibalistic tribe that follows Maria around after she visits the temple but their sole purpose is to act as boogeymen and provide the occasional mild scare.

“The Other Side of the Door” is filled with tense set ups and mild scares. It never manages to pull off a really frightening moment. Seeing the spirit of Oliver manifest itself as a rotting corpse, while explained later in the film, doesn’t make a great deal of sense. The budget for the film appears to have been fairly low as there isn’t much in the way of special effects. A walking/crawling death demon appears to have had its appearance borrowed from “The Grudge.” If your expectations are low or you are easily frightened, “The Other Side of the Door” may be precisely what you’re looking for, otherwise stay away.

“The Other Side of the Door” is rated R for some bloody violence. The movie doesn’t deserve an R rating because that violence comes very late in the film and isn’t that graphic or gory. PG-13 probably would have been more accurate. We do see Oliver as a rotting corpse on a couple of occasions. We also see dead birds on the ground that quickly rots before our eyes. Foul language isn’t an issue.

While starting out with an interesting premise and spooky environment, “The Other Side of the Door” squanders what it’s given and presents the viewer with just another mediocre mildly tense horror flick.

“The Other Side of the Door” gets two stars out of five.


Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) never let her small size get in the way of her big dreams. Growing up on a carrot farm, Judy always dreamed of being a police officer in the gleaming metropolis of Zootopia where animals of all types, from the biggest predator to the smallest prey, lived together in harmony. Judy attended the police academy and figured out ways to use her small size to her advantage graduating at the top of her class. Zootopia mayor Leodore Lionheart’s (voiced by J.K. Simmons) new inclusion initiative means Judy will be the first bunny on the police force. Her boss Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba), a massive water buffalo, is unimpressed and assigns Judy to traffic detail writing tickets for parking violations. Soon Judy hears of 14 missing person cases all involving predators. A photograph connects one of the missing to a red fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) who considers himself a great con man. Confronted by Judy and threatening to use his own words against him to send him to jail, Nick reluctantly agrees to help Judy track down one of the missing predators. Judy and Nick soon discover there is a dark side to these disappearances that may tear all of Zootopia apart.

“Zootopia” is a simplistic film that manages to hide a deeply subversive message under its bright and colorful surface. It’s the kind of message that might upset some commentators in this contentious election year and could start arguments on talk shows. The subversive message I speak of? Don’t discriminate based on your fears and assumptions about those different from you. Shocking, I know.

“Zootopia” spends a great deal of time setting up its alternate universe where animals evolved (I know, another contentious word during an election cycle) beyond their base nature of being either predator or prey and began working together to establish a society that led to the city of the title. It is a fully realized world with high-speed elevated trains and various environments reflecting the homes of each type of animal. Rainforest, desert, savannah, tundra, and tiny rodent town are all explored and designed in a way that makes sense given the different needs of all the various sized animals. Visually, “Zootopia” is stunning with buildings one might expect to see in Dubai. While bright, the color palate of the film manages to avoid becoming a jangled mess and creates a world that is wild and imaginative yet still pleasant to look at.

The story of “Zootopia” takes a bit of time to develop and that’s great as it gives us more of an opportunity to get to know the characters, primarily Judy and Nick. There is a surprising bit of chemistry between the two even when they are at odds initially. The unbridled enthusiasm of Judy and the cynicism of Nick work to create a kind of combustible emotional mixture that at times explode into either humor or drama. Both Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman are terrific in their voice parts. There is playfulness to both characters that the combination of the voices and the visuals really brings out.

I don’t want to ruin the film for you so I will keep specifics of the plot to myself; however, it is a rather sophisticated plan that takes a good deal of the movie’s 108 minute run time to unfold. As more details are revealed it makes the audience more and more curious about what exactly is going on. Any guesses before a certain point in the film will undoubtedly be wrong but feel free to join with your child and try to figure out the specifics. It is this plan that gets wrapped up in the ultimate message of looking past stereotypes and avoiding uneducated judgements. While parents will feel a bit beaten around the head and neck with the lesson the film tries to teach, the rest of the movie’s humor and action should soften the assault.

“Zootopia” is rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action. There are some chase scenes and a couple of threats of violence that may disturb the very youngest viewers. There are also a few jokes about how well rabbits multiply. The theme of discrimination and mob mentality might cause some discussion after the film. There are no language concerns.

“Zootopia” is the kind of film children and parents will both find enjoyable. From the goofy humor, the action and the bright colors to the message, this children’s film is one that is fully packed for audiences of all ages. Perhaps it should even be mandatory viewing for presidential candidates. They might learn something whether they like it or not.

“Zootopia” gets five stars.

Four new films hit screens this week. I’ll see and review at least one of these:

10 Cloverfield Lane—

The Brothers Grimsby—

The Perfect Match—

The Young Messiah—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to