While Ben Affleck made a good, broody Bruce Wayne in Batman Vs Superman, the thunderous movie around him was, to put it mildly, lacking. Thankfully, he followed up that bloated opus with the far more satisfying The Accountant, an intelligent, well-constructed thriller in which he gets to originate a fascinating character.
That character is a high-functioning autistic who performs complex financial work for various criminal operations. At the same time that he begins a gig for a robotics company at the behest of its CEO (John Lithgow), a veteran Treasury Department agent (J.K. Simmons) blackmails a younger agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into helping him catch Affleck.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Besides being a “mental calculator,” Affleck possesses serious martial arts and sharpshooting skills, learned his numbers trade from a former mob accountant (Jeffrey Tambor), crosses paths with a hitman (Jon Bernthal), and an in-house company accountant (Anna Kendrick) develops feelings for him.
The beautifully structured script connects all the dots together very nicely — nothing feels extraneous and everything that happens makes sense — and director Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Warrior) makes the copious amount of exposition interesting instead of eyes-glazing-over boring, and knows exactly how, and when, to dole out the various revelations.
He also gets a great performance out of Affleck. Yes, Simmons displays appropriate end-of-government-career weariness, and Bernthal does a great tough guy. But Affleck has a tougher job here and nails it perfectly, conveying his character’s autism without Rain Man showiness, via restrained body language and carefully chosen and spoken words.
For some, making Affleck an autistic action hero may feel like little more than a gimmick on which to hang a franchise a la Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne. I found it refreshing. It gives its leading man something more to play than just a slick, skilled-action-man persona, and imbues the goings on with the kind of emotion you wouldn’t normally find in an action film.
And yes, the film ventures into action-film territory (minus the explosions) often enough to be called one, what with all the gunfire and coolly choreographed Pencak Silat (an Indonesian martial arts also on dazzling display in The Raid and its sequel). But even without the action, The Accountant is hardly a by-the-numbers effort. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 1/10/17