Total Recall

10 Awesome Movie Accountants

In this week's Total Recall, we look at a surprisingly eclectic collection of accountants on the big screen, where they don't show up all too often.

by | October 12, 2016 | Comments

Mere months after he helped expand the DCEU in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck is back in The Accountant, an action thriller about a guy whose affinity for numbers leads him into some fairly dangerous legal gray areas. In honor of a rare (albeit probably pretty unrealistic) trip to the big screen for this profession, we decided to dedicate this week’s feature to other accountants at the movies — and we turned up a bigger and more varied bunch than you might immediately suspect. It’s time for Total Recall!

William Blake – Dead Man (1995) 71%

Long before he rode as Tonto in Disney’s Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp starred in a very different kind of Western: Jim Jarmusch’s endearingly odd Dead Man. Playing William Blake, an accountant who travels to a frontier town to start a new job only to find it’s been given away — and then bumbles into a murder that sends him into the wilderness with a bullet in his chest and a Native American guide named Nobody — Depp got to indulge some of his odder arthouse inclinations while exposing viewers to a number of heretofore unconsidered occupational hazards in the field. “This is clearly a turning point for the director,” wrote the Austin Chronicle’s Marc Savlov. “To where he’s turning, though, is anyone’s guess.”

Frank Bigelow – D.O.A. (1950) 88%

This 1950 noir classic rests on a premise so rich and sturdy that it’s been remade a number of times (to admittedly diminishing returns): Accountant Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) books himself a nice one-week vacation to San Francisco, only to end up being poisoned by an unknown assailant. As the movie opens, he’s entering a police station — to report his own murder. Racing against the clock and determined to find out who killed him, Bigelow uses his methodical intellect to piece together the events surrounding his poisoning, unspooling a series of twists and double-crosses along the way. “It stands,” wrote David Cornelius for eFilmCritic, “as one of the finest of the post-war B thrillers.”

Louis Tully – Ghostbusters (1984 Original) (1984) 97%

Imagine Hollywood’s stereotypical version of an accountant, and the picture that comes to mind is probably a little like Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), the track-suited nebbish whose fumbling attempts to put the moves on Dana (Sigourney Weaver) offer the paranormal goings-on in Ghostbusters a little added comic relief. In a lot of ways, the character’s played as your average two-dimensional ’80s comedy nerd, but to his credit, Louis obviously had a healthy social life outside the office — and he got to unleash his inner beast toward the end, after he was possessed by Vinz Clortho. Austin Kennedy of Film Geek Central spoke for a generation when he wrote, “Ghostbusters is a movie that I’ve seen well over a hundred times and I’m still not sick of it, nor do I think I ever will.”

Jonathan Mardukas – Midnight Run (1988) 94%

What’s riskier for an accountant than ripping off a client? Swindling a mobster client out of $15 million — as evidenced by the furtive journey undertaken by Charles Grodin’s character in Midnight Run. As Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas, Grodin spends the movie on the lam from a number of interested parties, including his former client (Dennis Farina), the bail bondsman he left holding the bag (Joe Pantoliano), and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro), the bounty hunter hired to catch him. Nine times out of 10, this story would end up being an action thriller, but Midnight Run played it largely for laughs — and fortunately for director Martin Brest, they made a pretty terrific comedy duo. “Whoever cast De Niro and Grodin must have had a sixth sense for the chemistry they would have,” wrote Roger Ebert. “They work together so smoothly, and with such an evident sense of fun, that even their silences are intriguing.”

Loretta Castorini – Moonstruck (1987) 94%

Audiences love a good romantic odd couple — and what’s odder than Nicolas Cage as an absurdly coiffed, incurably romantic, prosthetic-fingered baker opposite Cher as a buttoned-down accountant? Director Norman Jewison paired the stars to tremendous effect in 1987’s Moonstruck, using their unlikely chemistry to fuel a star-crossed romantic comedy whose admittedly rather basic story took a backseat to the effervescent energy of its leads. As the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum put it, “most of the show belongs to Cher and Cage, both of whom are at their energetic best.”

Leo Bloom – The Producers (1968) 90%

Every dastardly business plan needs an accountant with flexible morals, and The Producers got a great one in Leo Bloom. Played in Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie classic by Gene Wilder, Bloom’s the numbers wiz who hips foundering Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) to the idea that he can make money by over-investing a flop play and pocketing the difference — inadvertently sparking the deranged (and utterly hilarious) idea to mount a production of Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. “If Mel Brooks is remembered for only three films, then he can rest easy knowing that they’re three of the funniest ones ever made,” wrote Scott Weinberg for DVD Talk. “And The Producers was the first.”

Henry Sherman – The Royal Tenenbaums (2002) 80%

If you’ve got a movie in which you’ve hired Gene Hackman to play a misanthropic weirdo and you need to cast an actor to play his polar opposite, who do you turn to? Just ask Wes Anderson, whose The Royal Tenenbaums cast of outlandish characters was balanced out by Danny Glover as Henry Sherman, the bow-tied accountant whose quiet dependability stands in stark contrast to the psyche-warping megalomania of Hackman’s titular family patriarch. “This comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family of eccentric geniuses is exactly the kind of movie America could use,” wrote Jack Matthews of the New York Daily News. “It’s funny, poignant, laced with irresistibly flawed characters and focuses on the power of love in a family.”

Itzhak Stern – Schindler's List (1993) 97%

We’ve all heard about Oskar Schindler’s heroic, costly efforts to save Jewish refugees during World War II. But those who have merely passing familiarity with this dark chapter in history may not know Schindler’s life-saving list had a crucial assist from Itzhak Stern, the accountant who helped run his factory. Played in Schindler’s List by BAFTA-nominated Ben Kingsley, Stern adds another anguished pulse to this Spielberg classic — and ably demonstrates how history’s course was altered by a guy who used a balance sheet to help protect the dignity of human life. Applauding the director for “rising brilliantly to the challenge of this material and displaying an electrifying creative intelligence,” the New York Times’ Janet Maslin wrote, “Mr. Spielberg has made sure that neither he nor the Holocaust will ever be thought of in the same way again.”

Andy Dufresne – The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 91%

The stereotype of an accountant’s life is quiet and rather dull — a picture cruelly upended by the case of poor Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Framed for a crime of passion he didn’t commit and railroaded into the state pen, Andy (played by Tim Robbins) saves himself from a life of prison brutality with his financial acumen, which earns him a gig crunching numbers and laundering money for the warden. Even more impressive than his way with a ledger sheet? The unyielding patience that enables him to put up with years of injustice while slowly carving a tunnel out of the prison, spoonful by spoonful. “This is an engagingly simple, good-hearted film,” wrote Dave Kehr for the New York Daily News, “with just enough darkness around the edges to give contrast and relief to its glowingly benign view of human nature.”

Oscar Wallace – The Untouchables (1987) 82%

It’s fun to frame the story of Eliot Ness vs. Al Capone as a good old-fashioned cops ‘n’ robbers saga, but it wasn’t just badges and bullets that toppled the infamous gangster’s criminal empire — it was tax evasion. With 1987’s The Untouchables, director Brian De Palma dramatized Capone’s fall by rounding up an all-star cast that included Kevin Costner as Ness, Robert De Niro as Capone, and Sean Connery as straight-arrow cop Jimmy Malone, and although it’s their pistol-toting mugs glowering out from the movie poster, the story really starts with a different kind of tough guy: accountant Oscar Wallace, played by American Graffiti vet Charles Martin Smith. Outside the numbers, of course, the movie packs in its share of excitement; as Ben Yagoda wrote for the Philadelphia Daily News, “De Palma does a superb job with the action sequences, which are choreographed, paced and acted out so well that they don’t leave a palm dry in the house.”

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