by Coop Cooper
Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, an autistic savant and accountant, who cooks the books for some of the most notorious criminals on the planet. Meticulous about his every move, he decides to take an assignment at a legitimate prosthetic limb corporation after one too many risky jobs. He finds a kindred spirit in Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), a low-level employee who found the accounting discrepancy which let to his hiring by the company founder, Lamar Black (John Lithgow). When Wolff finds the source of the leaked funds, a couple of company executives end up dead and Wolff discovers that he and Dana have been targeted for assassination. Luckily, Wolff has been trained to deal with dangerous situations and his skill and attention to detail make him a deadly adversary to the assassins lead by the intimidating Brax (John Bernthal).
While this plot line sounds corny, “The Accountant” might be the best action thriller of the year. It feels like a cross between the action/intrigue of the “Bourne” movies mixed with the character complexity of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Affleck’s Wolff is one of the more fascinating characters in recent memory and obviously the reason he took the role. Wolff is socially awkward, but through the course of the story, we learn through flashbacks what has made him such a self-sufficient mastermind and fighter. Part of the fun of the film is learning his secrets and his backstory which result in some interesting twists later on in the film.
While most of these details regarding his character would qualify as spoilers, we learn early on how he conditions himself to dealing with the sensory overload of the outside world. He puts himself through no less than twenty minutes of torture every day, using strobe lights, loud music and uncomfortable tactile stimulation to get him used to being around others and potentially uncomfortable situations. Although this seems to dull the effects of his severe autism, I doubt any doctor would recommend it as a treatment, especially considering Wolff’s extreme and questionable conditioning as a child by his military father.
Much like the efficient accountant himself, not a moment of the film is wasted on frivolities. The story is woven so tightly, and moves along so briskly, there is no room for boredom. While there is plenty of exciting action, the moments involving Wolff’s eccentricities, methods and his unique job all come across as fascinating… even more so as his secrets are revealed.
The A-list supporting cast helps Affleck along, adding depth and emotion in the parts of the story when Wolff keeps his own in check. Kendrick might seem like a quirky choice at first as a potential love interest, but her kind of charm works perfectly for her character and thankfully she has an off-kilter chemistry with Affleck. Bernthal, who is currently filming the upcoming “The Punisher” series for Netflix, comes across as appropriately menacing as the lead assassin, yet it is his character development at the end that results in one of the film’s most satisfying payoffs. J. K. Simmons as Ray King, the U.S. Treasury administrator who puts rookie agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) in pursuit of Wolff, plays a surprisingly sympathetic role with a larger story arc than I expected. His reason for practically blackmailing Medina into tracking Wolff down is yet another satisfying payoff.
Although I really liked “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, it’s no secret to my readers that I don’t care for the Jason Bourne movies. “The Accountant” gives us what the “Bourne” movies did not: A truly interesting and sympathetic character with a fascinating backstory and motivation behind what he does. Affleck knows how to pick his roles – even when he isn’t in the director’s chair as in the case of this film – and here he has picked a role that could potentially spawn a franchise. I predicted Benicio Del Toro’s ‘Alejandro’ character in last year’s “Sicario” would begin a franchise for the character and I was correct. Alejandro will return in the sequel “Soldado” in the next year or so. If “The Accountant” does well at the box office, Affleck may have a non-Batman character to revisit in the near future.
Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars