The Accountant

Movie Information

Genre: Black Comedy
Director: Ray McKinnon
Starring: Ray McKinnon, Walt Goggins, Eddie King, Gary Richardson
Rated: NR

Here’s a rare opportunity to actually see one of those Academy Award-winning short films (from 2002) that mean absolutely nothing to 99 percent of the movie-going public when the envelope is opened at the Oscars.

Moreover, here’s something even rarer: a chance to see a short from a 35mm print, on the big screen as it was intended to be seen.

In this case, Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company is running the film in conjunction with an acoustic set by performed by Patterson Hood of the Drive by Truckers. The reason? Ray McKinnon’s short film (it clocks in at about 35 minutes) was the inspiration for Hood’s song, “Sinkhole.”

Now, if you aren’t a fan of Hood’s music, you might consider the $10 admission a bit steep for a 35-minute movie. I’ll concede the point, though I once made a 130-mile roundtrip to see Roman Polanski’s 10-minute short, Two Men and a Wardrobe, back in the pre-video era. However, The Accountant is one hell of a good short.

On a comparative basis, that may not seem like an overwhelming recommendation, since all-too-many modern short films are lackluster, amateurish, terminally artsy, painfully obvious, smart-assed and just not very good. The Accountant is, I admit, a bit on the smart-ass side; but it never wisecracks in that snide, holier-than-thou, film-school manner that sinks so many projects.

This is rich, tightly structured filmmaking, with a sly script that cleverly reveals its mysteries and its black-hearted comedy with uncanny precision.

McKinnon himself stars as the title character. Driving a battered 1930s relic that looks like a cast-off from Tobacco Road, he arrives at the O’Dell farm to tell brothers David and Tommy how they can save the old homestead from foreclosure — no mean feat, since the place is about a quarter of a million dollars in debt. There are ways, however, he explains to them while consuming oceans of beer, shots of bourbon and a quantity of reefer smoke. Unfortunately, none of these ways are terribly appealing, and all of them are on the bad side of legality.

The Accountant is a rare type of film, in that it manages to raise more than a few legitimate issues within its comedic form and then dares to question those very issues.

In tone, the film smacks a bit of the Coen Brothers’ work. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to imagine that George Clooney’s character from O Brother, Where Art Thou? has gone to seed and turned into the accountant of the title. If there’s any downside to this short, it’s that the filmmaking style, while attractive and functional, has nothing of the Coen flair — but that’s a small quibble compared to the film’s merits. One thing’s for sure: You’ll never look at Billy Bob Thornton again without wondering about the reality of his origins.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

[The Accountant plays for one show only as part of Patterson Hood’s performance, Thursday, January 13 at 9 p.m.]

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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