'The Accountant' Review: Enjoy Ben Affleck's Silly Spy Movie Before Awards Season Starts!

by John Boone 10:05 AM PDT, October 14, 2016
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

At various points, The Accountant is an autism PSA, an autism conspiracy theory, and an autism revenge saga. While that may seem like ample ground for something, at the very least, unexpected, you've seen this movie. You've seen these scenes in other, better (and honestly, sometimes not better) movies. You've been shocked by these twists. You have heard this dialogue. ("How will I find you?" "You won't. I'll find you.")

The story centers on CPA Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), who has high-functioning autism, although it takes the movie an entire hour to explicitly state it -- before that, his childhood doctor is "not a fan of labels." Wolff was raised by an Army father who, instead of coddling his son or providing him specialized care, attempted to toughen him via exposure therapy and combat training in Jakarta.

With his martial arts skills and his autism, which basically manifests as the powers Bradley Cooper had at the end of Limitless, Wolff grows up to become a forensic auditor who cooks the books for international crime lords. Essentially, it's like someone looked at the "Known For" section on Affleck's buddy Matt Damon's IMDb page and asked, "What if we combined Good Will Hunting and The Bourne Identity?"

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Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

There's also a subplot about the Treasury's financial crimes director (J.K. Simmons, leaning into his Whiplash character, albeit with less shouting) blackmailing an analyst into tracking down Wolff, as well as another thread involving a hitman (Jon Bernthal, gravelly and brutal as his Punisher character, but a little more fun!) who keeps popping up parallel to Wolff. In the end, the movie attempts to piece together a puzzle, but is way more over-involved than need be, culminating in a twist that is only surprising in how ridiculous it is.

On top of all that, there's a romance-of-sorts between Wolff and a junior bookkeeper, Dana (Anna Kendrick, showcasing the Anna Kendrick Starter Kit: chipper, awkward and dressed in a pink sweater). The Affleck-Kendrick scenes are either the best part of the movie or the worst, mostly because they feel like a completely different movie: early on, like a mumblecore indie about finding love on the spectrum. Later, when Dana learns of Wolff's double life, you might ask yourself: didn't Anna Kendrick already do this movie with Sam Rockwell? (Yup!)

Perhaps I'm being too hard on The Accountant. Though it often fails at doing so, as directed by Gavin O'Connor (Warrior, the doomed Jane Got a Gun), the movie does at least attempt to do something new, which is more than I can say for certain other action movies among this fall's crop. And though it seems to ache to be more, The Accountant is ultimately an action-thriller, with all the requisite action and thrills. Why can't Ben Affleck do a fun popcorn flick, and it not be anything more than that?

Possibly because even when Affleck takes on "fun" roles -- as with last summer's very un-fun Batman v Superman -- he does so with such gravitas and Actor-y seriousness that you can't help but suspect he's baiting accolades, adding that whiff of prestige to every movie, whether appropriate or not. Affleck's performance here -- whispering math over montages of numbers and tax files and karate-chopping bad guys -- won't be his Rain Main or his Temple Grandin, and that's just fine. His Oscar pic this year was always Live by Night.