A thriller should be entertaining and smart, both of which The Accountant is. Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is not Christian in the traditional sense, but he is a wolf of a hunter, about as accurate as anyone behind a telescopic gun barrel could be.
Yet he’s a brilliant accountant at the same time, thank you, autism: He has a savant’s grasp of facts and numbers (think Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man) but a serious deficiency in the affective and communicative categories. Affleck plays him with a grasp of disaffection that is almost humorous, in fact is with some of his straight-arrow responses: “I don’t guess,” he says when queried if he had a hunch about the perpetrator of a fraud.
You see, he is hired by all kinds of wealthy and criminal business people and governments to uncook their books or whatever is necessary to discover fraud or put the books in order. These jobs lead to situations where he is wanted by bad guys or the IRS or whomever. Wolff’s legitimate, current job for a robotics company is complicated enough for him to need several glass walls to write on (think Affleck’s buddy Mark Damon in Good Will Hunting), taking in hours what would consume days for a host of professional accountants.
And so it goes according to the thriller formula that the bad guys will be on his trail, and he will be made vulnerable by a cute co-worker, Dana (Anna Kendrick), who has some of his math savvy and maybe a bit of sweet for him. The Accountant veers from formula because that romance is of the “chaste-and-from-afar” kind, almost but not quite at the kiss stage. It’s pleasant not to be bothered by heavy sex when the complications are of the cerebral, themselves the core of pleasure in this brainy, but not too, action drama.
Unfortunately our autistic hero, trained by a merciless military father to defend himself because dad knew son would always be treated as different, slips into thriller stereotype, e.g. Christian puts down too many hired guns at one time, albeit in the service of a noble retaliation for a prison friend. Although the action is within the parameters of the genre, it here feels overdone given the cerebral contexts that otherwise provide plenty of thrills.
One of the joys of this film is to see Affleck show some acting chops; he may never be like Dustin Hoffman, but he’s memorably stoic here, a long way from J.Lo and Gigl