The Accountant

A portrait of high functioning autism, or Batman with a Gun

the-accountant-posterAny points “The Accountant” earns as a portrait of high functioning autism are quickly erased when Gavin O’Connor’s film simply becomes Ben Affleck as Batman with a gun. The film hardly blends genres but mashes them up into a complex, albeit fun and thrilling action caper.

Affleck plays Christian Wolff (not really his name), an accountant in Plainfield, IL who secretly reviews the books of the worst criminals and drug cartels in the world. Born with a gift at math, puzzles and logic yet stifled socially due to his autism, he’s a natural at deciphering where lost money has gotten to and in turn keeping a low profile. Christian lives alone in a drab, undecorated, ranch house. He prepares three symmetrically cooked fried eggs each night for dinner, performs physical therapy on his body while blaring heavy metal and pops a Xanax at exactly 10:01 each night.

O’Connor could’ve stopped at having Christian be a meticulously perfect mathematical prodigy and, later, an assassin, but exploring his childhood dealing with autism gives him a provocative past, a cause and a vice to overcome throughout the film. And yet it becomes squandered when Christian’s father begins giving him super soldier training in martial arts and sharpshooting. His origin story is less of coping with a disability (or as someone who is differently abled, to be more accurate and politically correct) and more of a ruthless father (Andy Umberger) who pushes him to be a weapon. One version feels relatable to parents, and the other sounds like “Batman Begins.”

Upon Christian taking a job investigating a prosthetics manufacturer and their CEO (John Lithgow), government agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) recruits low-level analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to track this “Accountant” and bring him to justice. Meanwhile, another assassin known only as Brax (Jon Bernthal) starts eliminating people close to Christian’s case with plans to next eliminate the junior accountant working with Christian, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

The plot actually becomes a lot more labyrinth, with threats that never pan out, frequent time jumps to Christian’s childhood and time in prison as a young adult, not to mention the string of murders Brax leaves in his wake. What’s more, O’Connor occasionally abandons the film’s crisp, symmetrical filmmaking that echoes Christian’s condition in favor of more grainy, shaky cam action.

What are refreshing about the action however are the stealthy black ops and the startling way in which Christian methodically clears a room. His weapon of choice is a booming, long range sniper rifle, which he uses to pick off some nasty grapefruits from a mile away at the shooting range. O’Connor fills the room with its deafening blast and creates tension more often through startling than through style.

The film’s aggressive edge is only softened by the charming and quirky performances from Affleck and Kendrick. Affleck has never had a problem with the action hero role, but he’s withholding in his emotions and doesn’t have his charisma to lean on. Christian smashes a thug’s head on a bathroom sink in order to save Dana, and he just barely lets enough air escape from his mouth to say, “We should go,” a fitting punch line that works greater than a catch phrase. Kendrick on the other hand has a puppy dog smile and innocence as she lumbers her way over to Christian to have lunch when he’d rather be alone. Kendrick never gets involved in any action, and the movie even abstains from making them a romantic couple (Kendrick is about 10 years Affleck’s junior), but her presence is nonetheless felt and welcome.

There’s certainly some appeal here if you want an action/thriller at the multiplex, but if you’re looking for a great movie in “The Accountant,” the numbers don’t exactly add up.

3 stars