There’s a new hero in town, “The Accountant!” Whaaat? No, not somebody who can turn debits into credits at will. This is kind of like Rain Man meets Jason Bourne. The premise is preposterous, but for those who buy into Ben Affleck’s stoic understated performance, this is a fresh and exhilarating approach to X-Men (without mutant genes).
Over the last several years, superheroes of every type have saturated the cinematic market. Recently, we have seen a few welcomed variations on the genre, so give them credit for the effort. Here, a child is diagnosed with autism at an early age. Fortunately, the filmmakers treat this serious disorder respectfully. The boy’s mother asks, “Will he ever be normal?” The doctor responds, “Define normal.”
More important, this curious concept is plausible. There are possibilities for a character that is socially awkward, emotionally unstable and arithmetically gifted. However, realizing the boy could suffer merciless teasing or worse, his overly strict military father has his two sons expertly trained in martial arts and marksmanship.
As Christian Wolff grows into a man, Affleck channels his “tortured” Batman psyche to deliver a surprisingly credible character. It’s important to note that Wolff hasn’t been bitten by an insect, visited by alien forces or mutated in any way. Instead, his strengths and weaknesses are based solely on his autism and forced training regimen.
Based in a strip mall accounting office, the introvert speaks in a soft monotone but is intensely focused and wonderfully quirky. The story works when it features brains over brawn. But as Wolff can bring it with the best of them, the character picks up an added dimension. Although the story is serious, it carries a dark sense of humor throughout.
We learn early that Wolff’s primary business is auditing the books of drug kingpins, dictators and other unsavory characters. As Treasury Department investigator Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) pick up Wolff’s trail, he is called to audit a legitimate robotics company.
Apparently, accounting clerk Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. Working through the night, Wolff discovers what appears to be a deliberate and illicit accounting practice perpetrated from the top. As he begins to uncover the truth, people start to die and Dana becomes a target.
We wonder if Wolff actually cares if the company conducts illegal practices. Will his insensitivity allow him to risk his lifestyle to save Anna? Can the Treasury Department find and catch him before he acts? Given the number of expected clichés in this movie, you can count on an electrifying finish with an unusually high body count.
Director Gavin O’Connor and writer Bill Dubuque thankfully omit special effects from this action-thriller. We’re not sure if the conclusion offers a big payoff, but it’s so quirky from the beginning, it doesn’t need it that much. The supporting cast includes, John Lithgrow, Jeffrey Tambor and Jean Smart. Mel Gibson was originally set to star, but they thankfully changed their direction. Clearly, they left an opening for a sequel to this unique character and outlandish premise, but nothing is yet announced.
“The Accountant” is 128 minutes and rated R for strong violence and language. Anna Kendrick based her character on her mother, a real accountant who reviewed the script and explained the math to her daughter. This is an intelligent action-drama for those looking for a new kind of hero, not in the mold of every other action picture.
We enjoyed Affleck’s emotionless and businesslike responses, “I don’t guess” and “You should go.” Interesting, in his efficient workmanlike manner, he is one of the few gunmen who always double-taps. Sure, sometimes accountants get a bad rap as unexciting. But we now are starting to wonder if our accountant is a secret agent; he always asks if we’re wearing a wire.