The Accountant was one of the biggest flops of 2016, with U.S. grosses topping out at $86 million on a $44 million budget, even more disappointing due to the pedigree attached. With Gavin O’Connor, who directed Warrior and Pride and Glory at the helm, Ozark’s Bill Dubuque taking care of the script, and The Town’s capable action star Ben Affleck in the lead—what could go wrong?
Frankly, almost everything. While The Accountant had some acceptable action scenes and fairly interesting moments showcasing the murderous math savant’s ability to plan, prepare, and eliminate people, it was largely a dull, uneventful slog.
Then The Accountant miraculously found fans in the home video sector and became the most rented movie of 2017—beating out the juggernauts Wonder Woman (which let's be honest premiered in July '17, eight months after the Affleck joint) and Moana (let's be real it's streaming on Netflix for ages).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the MPAA—the Motion Picture Association of America, responsible for rating movies and representing Hollywood’s major studios—has decided to include home entertainment in its end-of-the-year reports. This is definitely unconventional, and a first for the MPAA, but it does make sense—theatrical attendance is at a 22-year low, while renting and streaming movies has become commonplace. This is where the accountants came across The Accountant, and noticed its numbers put it at the top of U.S. digital rentals—followed by Moana and Wonder Woman, which, unlike Affleck’s project, did spectacularly at the box-office.
While this is a pretty stunning turn of events, hindsight sort of elucidates how something like this could’ve happened. Going to the movies has become increasingly expensive, resulting in the lowest attendance in decades. The only time masses of viewers tend to go to the actual cinema is for a major tentpole. For the rest of the country, content to stay at home and take advantage of their convenient streaming services with rental costs not much pricier than videotapes in the '90s, The Accountant probably looked like a good time. Bankable star, established director, solid writer, extremely familiar occupation—why not check it out for a few bucks?
On top of that, The Accountant absolutely looked like catnip for uninformed dads across the country. This is, frankly, the epitome of dad-movies, where a middle-aged man gets to break free from the mundanity of his day job, his suit and tie, and shoot shit up. For us movie snobs, of course, we were pretty clear it was nothing more than a watered down version of buddy Matt Damon's Bourne, and that it unsuccessfully tried to cash in on the popularity of the quiet, calculating lone assassin type. Every minute there's a sucker born, though.