Ben Affleck as THE ACCOUNTANT is crunching more than numbers. This is a real departure for the actor as he brings to life an ass-kicking, Asperger’s syndrome, math wiz working his way through an intense labyrinth of secrecy and surprise. The film is a refreshing and well-balanced mix of farflung elements: action, thriller, romantic comedy(!) family dysfunction, and a shout out to those with special needs who challenge our idea of what’s “normal.” I hung on and went along for one of the more exciting rides of the early fall. I’m also wondering what my CPA is doing in his spare time.
The film’s opening sequence is shrouded in mystery–a shootout, footsteps in closeup–but whose are they and what’s at stake? The tale is told in multiple flashbacks and we understand this is a puzzle with increasingly disparate parts, requiring patience and the hope it will all fit together. At its center is Christian Wolff a combination “Einstein, Mozart, Picasso” who has exceptional cognitive skills, autism, and a dash of OCD. He’s vividly and convincingly played by Ben Affleck as a bespectacled, emotionless, obsessive compulsive whose deadpan delivery is often in hilarious contrast to the tumultuous heart-racing action sequences he finds himself in.
Affleck has gained weight for the role which has blown out his handsome features, leaving behind a puffy, emotionless wasteland. But what’s percolating below that bland surface is anything but. Seems he has been laundering and/or uncooking years of books as a financial consultant to everyone from gun runners, and drug dealers to mob bosses around the world–dangerous work for which he is shockingly well-equipped. The tough love that his disciplinarian father doled out to him and his brother as a way to make them strong against a hostile world, has turned Christian into a crack shot and a fighting machine.
His most recent assignment brings him into contact with Dana Cummings– one time art major turned accountant who confesses she likes “finding things that aren’t obvious.” Anna Kendrick projecting her usual perky intelligence, makes Dana just the person to uncover the inner Christian. Together they embark on unraveling the numbers, and in the process cook up some chemistry that’s outside the parameters of his usual experience. Eventually there’s a pivotal scene on a couch that’s as interesting a romantic interlude as any I’ve seen.
Add to the equation J.K. Simmons and Cynthis Addai-Robinson as treasury agents hot on his global trail, plus an assassin (Jon Bernthal) who’s not too far behind, Jeffrey Tambor as an incarcerated mentor, and John Lithgow as the head of the corporation missing the funds, and you’ve got a jungle of a plot, dense enough to require some serious hacking. It got even denser in the penultimate moments wherein a major chunk of exposition is unpacked by Simmons’ character Ray King. I was paying very close attention but, as in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, I’d like to go back and watch again; not sure I made all the connections, but was nevertheless, glued.
The ending tonally shifts into X-Men, James Bond, Disney territory– didn’t quite buy it. But it also packed a wallop of a surprise: did NOT see it coming– LOVE when that happens. But THE ACCOUNTANT on balance, adds ups to a terrific entertainment and is an asset in Affleck’s acting portfolio.