MOVIE REVIEW: The Accountant

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“THE ACCOUNTANT”-- 3 STARS

Full disclosure, my goal in this review is to use as many synonyms as possible for the words “ridiculous” and “entertaining.”  The range between those two attributes comprises the pendulum swing of “The Accountant,” the latest Ben Affleck-led actioner from “Warrior” director Gavin O’Connor.  The film has a dual personality between the entertaining and ridiculous that weaves through every component and cuts to its core.

O’Connor’s film introduces us to a young pre-teen boy with special needs on the autism spectrum.  Horrendously misunderstood in social skills and sensory comfort by his strict military father (Robert C. Treveiler), but a savant in mathematics and puzzles, the boy grows up to go by the name of Christian Wolff (Affleck), a meek public accountant working and living a minimalist lifestyle in Plainfield, Illinois.  Beneath his deeply introverted exterior lies a trained assassin of elaborate aliases and the most profitable forensic accountant in the international criminal underworld.

The existence of the ambiguous and unknown Mr. Wolff is dubbed “The Accountant” by his pursuing U.S. Treasury agent Ray King (Oscar winner J.K. Simmons) and his new analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson of CW’s “Arrow”).  While they attempt to follow the breadcrumbs and paper trail to discover their target’s identity, Wolff takes on a high-priced auditing assignment of a powerful robotics company founded by Lamar Black (John Lithgow).  Digging into their books, Christian gravitates to a fellow introvert and junior accountant in the form of Anna Kendrick’s awkward and peppy Dana Cummings.  The final disrupter in this mounting turmoil is the equally mysterious Brax, a rough and loquacious security enforcer employed by unseen people of influence, played by Jon Bernthal.

Half of the film’s fun is placed firmly in the the haunting pasts of its characters.  Woven through the steady chase are telling flashbacks that uncover what turned the puzzle-obsessed and skittish little boy we meet into the hulking and cold killer we see in the present.  “The Accountant,” avoiding spoiler-filled marketing, holds its cards tight to the vest and slow-plays its hand of aces.  Many delectable connections and catalysts are deftly hidden in subtle imagery, passing clues, and little character quirks throughout the film.  Some of the bigger twists are visible solar systems away while others spark and combust in clever reveals.

The film’s split between the entertaining and ridiculous cuts to the core of Bill Dubuque’s maniacal screenplay.  No character is one-dimensional, while much is still paper thin in credibility.  Anna Kendrick is an unfit and overplayed plucky distraction at one moment and then necessary levity in the next, while Simmons combines a virtuous hunter with a scathing blackmailer in equal shades.  The same duality of the absurd and the amusing scaffolds the narrative and genre pillars of “The Accountant” as well.

For example, there is an intuitively positive stance to be found in showcasing autism and sensory disorders in a semi-accurate manner in a Hollywood film.  Affleck gets his own “Good Will Hunting” moment while still getting to flex his action muscles.  The attempted message is all well and good until it is over-glorified where the only two chief applications of highly functional autism presented are dirty accounting and multiple calculated forms of murder.  It’s engrossingly captivating, borderline a little wrong, and yet unintentionally funny.  They could rename the film “The Special Needs Assassin” and lose little integrity from the low bar it was aiming for.

As crooked and batty as every character calculation or plot device is designed to be, “The Accountant” does more than enough to satisfy and enthrall as easy escapism as its own enigma filled with atmosphere, aiding my Mark Isham’s hammering musical score and Seamus McGarvey’s tricky camera.  Throughout, it is stylish suspense hiding under a mask of blankness and a volcano of spry energy waiting beneath a placid exterior.  The bang for your buck factor is very high.

LESSON #1: THE TRAITS AND CAPABILITIES OF HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM-- Like any movie would, “The Accountant” dials the characteristics of Asperger’s and high functional autism to 12 for dramatic and showy purposes, especially when the dry erase markers are scribbling, the puzzle pieces are maneuvering, and the bullets are flying.  It’s almost trying to say that autism would make you a better marksman or fighter.  Alas, violence aside, to the uninformed, the movie nails many of the misnomers, truths, and talents possible for those with such disorders.  Call this a half hat-tip and half of a finger wag.

LESSON #2: ALWAYS WATCH OUT FOR THE QUIET ONES-- Whether it’s mother telling you or the late George Carlin, this old adage rings true inside and outside “The Accountant.”  The quiet ones are thinking while you are talking.  They are planning, plotting, and dissecting while you waste your energy and raise your pulse rate.  Like cat memes, those nerds you make fun of are probably secretly trying to kill you.

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