Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons
Rated R for strong violence and language
2 hr. 8min.
Despite his Academy Award for co-writing Good Will Hunting, there has been a tendency for critics to consider Ben Affleck’s abilities as an actor “lighter” than those of his BFF, Matt Damon. A legion of Batman nerds nearly led a rebellion against his casting in that part. His “light” touch has played well in films like Argo. The less we discuss efforts like Gigli, the more Ben would appreciate it.
Yet there he is, commanding the screen in The Accountant, a most unusual action film. It would be technically inaccurate to make the analogy that the film is A Beautiful Mind meets Jason Bourne, because the former is about schizophrenia, and Affleck’s lead character, Christian Wolff, is on the autism spectrum, akin to Christian Bale’s high-finance master in The Big Short. In The Accountant, however, the math savant leaves bodies in his wake — a wave of violence that will leave your mouth agape.
Written by Bill Dubuque and directed by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior), you have to give this film credit for ingenuity and a genuinely enjoyable script to accompany the explosive, cumulative severity of the bloodshed.
Honestly, the story, as it begins, is hard to follow because The Accountant flashes back . . . a lot. We meet Wolff’s hard-assed Army colonel father, who can barely accept that the seed of his loins could be flawed in some way. Then we bounce from an incarcerated Wolff being mentored by an older prisoner (Jeffrey Tambor) to a paid assassin (Jon Bernthal) to a U.S. Treasury agent (J.K. Simmons) who extorts the talents of a departmental analyst (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). It’s a plot that keeps you on your toes. All you need to know going in is that Affleck’s Wolff is a savant who crunches numbers for dangerous criminals. He’s hired to track down the losses at a major robotics firm run by eccentric inventor Lamar Black, played by John Lithgow, the king of over-the-top, oddball screen eccentrics with a hint of villainy. These losses were discovered by a company assistant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), in a plot-point straight out of Weekend at Bernie’s, but more realistic.
From there, we find out that Wolff is more than just a math wizard: He’s a brutal marksman, deadly martial artist and an avenger without superpowers. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department has started hunting for a money launderer who helped iron out the finances of drug cartels and mobsters, just as said launderer (Wolff) realizes that Cummings’ life is in danger.
That’s when the heads literally start exploding, and the corpses pile up like firewood outside a rustic lodge. This is not an old rerun of Numb3rs. The violence is just mind-boggling! And the jumping around from past to present and the subtle introduction of new characters can be confusing. But it is exhilarating, sometimes draws laughs, and you can’t wait to see how it turns out, which is enough for any good movie.
Kendrick is always appealing — cute and as cuddly as a warm pillow, making her Dana Cummings a challenge for Wolff’s lack of interpersonal abilities.
In spite of the brutality of the violence, The Accountant treats the subject of autism with respect. It could easily have turned to the extremes: maudlin or grindingly unsympathetic. That a film of this sort works positively in its portrayal of autistic children and their parents, in any way, shape or form, is worth the price of admission.