The Accountant (2016)

Calculate your choices.

Can’t wait to see more of Ben Affleck’s dark, brooding caped crusader? Well, don’t fret, as The Accountant should fulfill all of your Batfleck needs — for the rest of the year anyway. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, Warrior (2011), this offbeat action-thriller attempts to turn a guy with Asperger’s into an unbreakable anti-hero, with Batman v Superman (2016) star Ben Affleck stepping into the shoes of the titular number-crusher with a deadly set of skills. Sound preposterous? Sure is! Be that as it may, The Accountant should at least get some brownie points for presenting the subject of autism in a positive light, depicting it as some kind of superpower rather than a disability.

Widely stereotyped as a monotonous career, Ben Affleck plays the central accountant who goes by the alias of Christian Wolff; a math savant with a form of high-functioning autism that gives him incredible agility when it comes to digits, memorization, and calculation. The only drawback, however, is that Christian finds it difficult to connect with other people. In any case, Mr. Wolff works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal cartels, the bean counter using a small-town CPA office in Plainfield, Illinois, to mask his shady work as a money launderer.

All debts will be paid.
All debts will be paid.

Cut to the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), who, for the better part of a decade, has been trying desperately hard to uncover the identity of this mystery white-collar worker (who’s somehow managed to evade ever being photographed clearly). On the verge of retirement, King coerces Agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into unmasking ‘the accountant’ by using her checkered past against her. When Agent Medina starts to close in on Christian Wolff, he decides to take on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics corporation where chipper clerk Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy in the company’s disordered records, one that involves millions of dollars. But as Christian scours the books and gets closer to the truth, the body count begins to rise, with Dana’s findings making her a target for annihilation.

Interweaving no less then four different narrative threads, The Accountant has too much going on — a lot of which (ironically) doesn’t add up. That said, the film functions best as a character study exploring the ins and outs of Affleck’s brainy anti-hero. Working from a Rubik’s Cube of a script by Bill Dubuque, The Judge (2014), The Accountant jumps back and forth through time in order to survey Christian’s bleak childhood — with Seth Lee playing a young Chris Wolff — and it’s these moments that ultimately help us find an affinity for our vacant protagonist, allowing us to calculate the reasons as to why Wolff has become such a hard edged man. Throughout the time jumps, we’re also provided with several hints of a clever twist that pops up later on in the story.

'Man, I wish I had my bat-suit right about now.'
‘Man, I wish I had my bat-suit right about now.’

It’s not all tax deductions and profit and loss statements as The Accountant does offer some intense gunplay and fluid fight scenes — think John Wick (2014) meets Good Will Hunting (1997) à la Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season teased in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). Watching Wolff sneak around inky shadows while ripping through legions of thugs with skill and dexterity is certainly better than measuring cash flow, especially when you’ve got the straight-faced Affleck doing a majority of his own stunts, the 44-year-old standing as the flick’s biggest asset. Conveying a lot with a little, Affleck delivers a nuanced, almost expressionless portrayal of Christian Wolff, an arithmetic genius almost incapable of feeling, one who can multiply big numbers in his head whilst writing on the walls of a glass-covered conference room (because that’s what smart folk do), his solid rendering bringing the tightly wound figure to life.

Sadly, those who are in need of an Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air (2009), fix will be disappointed with The Accountant as Kendrick’s role is much smaller, and more subdued, than we’ve been led to believe. Even so, the always-affable Kendrick is adorable here, the gorgeous 31-year-old providing the picture with some much-needed humanity in the form of the whip-smart Dana Cummings, a low-level analyst whom Wolff develops a certain fondness for, his connection with Dana becoming the closest human relationship he’s ever had — heck, he even invites her into his Bat-cave-esque hideout.

'Um, you missed a decimal point ... '
‘Um, you missed a decimal point … ‘

Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Colombiana (2011), is also good as Marybeth Medina, the agent tasked with piecing the whole shebang together, whereas J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (2014), doesn’t do much as her boss Ray King, bar deliver a whole bunch of clunky exposition that overcomplicates the entire storyline. Elsewhere, upcoming The Punisher (2017) star Jon Bernthal looks to be enjoying himself as a brutal yet charming lone wolf hitman, Brax, while John Lithgow, Cliffhanger (1993), and Jeffrey Tambor, The Hangover (2009), make the most out of their smaller bit parts.

Simultaneously melding Batfleck’s newfound stardom with the success of the hyper-stylized John Wick, The Accountant makes for a sharp investment, the folks over at Warner Bros. clearly taking this opportunity to capitalize on the current tough-guy-turned-vigilante craze. While a bit too long, convoluted and implausible, The Accountant still makes for a solid return. Oh, comic book fanboys should keep an eye out for a couple of clever DC quips that had me snickering in my seat. Thrills, spills and spreadsheets, The Accountant has it all!

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

The Accountant is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia