There’s a whole lot going on in The Accountant, but somehow it all adds up to a surprisingly entertaining action movie with an interesting story, some well-timed comic relief, and a very strong cast. So don’t let the odd premise — of a brilliant but socially-awkward numbers-crunching assassin with Asperger’s — scare you away. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year for sheer mainstream movie appeal, easily besting last week’s highly-anticipated drama The Girl on the Train.
Ben Affleck (Batman) is in excellent form (and Batman-worthy shape) as Christian Wolff, a skilled accountant – and killer – with a murky moral code that is gradually explained as the movie unfolds. He’s adept at cooking the books for crime organizations, but he also uses his mathematical powers for good, protecting the hard-earned savings of Joe and Jane Taxpayer. Through flashbacks, we discover that Christian was trained at a young age to defend and protect himself (i.e. fight and shoot) by a strict Army officer father who never truly understood how to handle Christian’s autistic behavior.
The film is part drama, part thriller, and part cat-and-mouse game. Christian finds himself pursued by a host of bad guys, but also by the director of the financial crimes division of the Treasury Department (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) who wants to identify and close the case on “The Accountant” before he retires in a few months. He blackmails a low-level analyst (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into helping him crack the case.
The movie benefits from a solid supporting cast that also includes Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor and Jean Smart. And it’s directed by Gavin O’Connor whose 2011 film Warrior was also surprisingly good (even though I knew nothing about Mixed Martial Arts). Both movies showcased some well-choreographed fight scenes — and heart.
The Accountant isn’t without its flaws. A few of the plot twists didn’t quite track for me. But overall, I appreciated what it was going for and enjoyed the ride. It’s a movie that draws you in, and keeps you engaged. It’s smart and well-written, and while there is definitely a high body count (and a lot of bullets to the head), it’s not overly graphic. The violence takes place largely in the shadows. The Accountant offers a well-balanced mix of dark and light. And I liked it.