If you say the phrase “autistic financial professional who moonlights as a hitman” out loud, well, it makes Ben Affleck’s Christian Wolff in “The Accountant” sound pretty ridiculous. Here’s the nutty thing: it’s not. Beyond a few obvious plot holes, “The Accountant” is an above average action thriller with a handful of stellar acting performances and one or two decent surprises.
Affleck’s Christian is a highly functioning Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer with zero people skills. He’s blunt and straight forward, but so pleasantly polite that those that interact with him seem more surprised than insulted. Flashbacks are used to fill in his backstory, where you learn about the unstable upbringing he and his older brother had to endure.
Director O’Connor doesn’t throw nonstop action on the screen, but instead uses five or six storylines to keep “The Accountant” moving. Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) notices millions of lost dollars for her boss’ (John Lithgow) tech company and he hires Christian to find where that money went. This leads to some surprisingly funny interactions between the awkwardly friendly Dana and Christian, whose robotic mannerisms are oddly amusing.
Meanwhile, US Treasury Agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) enlists an analyst, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), to help him track Christian down. There’s some hardcore exposition between these two and if there is unnecessary filler in “The Accountant”, it’s involving them.
It turns out that Agent King has photos of Christian hanging out with assorted rich bad guys and he believes Christian helps them cook their books. Those work habits bring Christian into the literal crosshairs of a brash and cocky hitman (Jon Bernthal), whose hair is more threatening than the litany of weapons seen in “The Accountant.”
There is quite a bit of info to download for a 128 minute movie, but director O’Connor creatively juggles it all. The script from Bill Dubuque was on the infamous Hollywood Black List of best screenplays for a few years and with all this dialogue, moving back and forth in time, and the potentially exploitative nature of a killer with Asperger’s, it takes a delicate touch to get this from page to screen.
A beefed up Affleck more than handles the action as he mercilessly pummels anyone that gets in his way. The violence is unforgiving and definitely earns its R-rating. O’Connor, his editor, Richard Pearson, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey have managed to find a way to tastefully show blood splatter. The action is brutal, but resists being grotesque.
Every actor digs into the pulpy dialogue and excels. Anna Kendrick is slightly short changed and has little to do other than be an example for Christian that other people are weird too. But, like always, her charm adds to a character lacking in depth.
Jon Bernthal is menacing, yet still quite funny. His grin and “aw shucks” attitude make all his crazy come off as amusing. Bernthal has become quite adept at portraying sociopaths and it would be interesting to see him go full psycho at some point.
There are two stand out performances in “The Accountant” and one belongs to J.K. Simmons. He can do no wrong right now and when Simmons’ moment to shine happens here, he finds a way to rip your heart out and brings a beautiful sadness to the entire movie. This is a role that could have simply been a guy in a suit, but Simmons breathes life into it and, in turn, some much needed humanity to an otherwise cold movie.
Of course, the other stand out is Ben Affleck. He is now an actor that can save a movie (cough Batman cough) and with “The Accountant”, Affleck has successfully tackled character acting. Make no mistake that this is an extremely difficult role to play and any misstep comes off as insensitive. Affleck plays Christian as a person whose condition simply will not stop him from achieving his goal and it’s actually an uplifting take on Asperger’s, despite the fact that he’s a criminal.
“The Accountant” is perfect adult escapist action. It won’t win any awards or accolades, but it will entertain for its entirety. It’s sure to be another hit for Affleck, who continues his impressive hot streak.
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