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'The Accountant' gets the job done

There are only three dining utensils laid out daily in the kitchen drawer of "The Accountant." A knife, a fork and a spoon. For dinner every night, he has a hearty breakfast perfectly arranged on a plate. Three eggs sunnyside up, bacon and pancakes.

Then, until 10:01 p.m., exactly every night, he goes into his bedroom and, while strobe lights pulse and heavy metal plays at 787 volume, mauls his own shins with a wooden club.

He has high functioning autism which means he's not exactly  a gabby conversationalist out in the world. He is, to that world, just a strip-mall accountant for a firm he calls ZZZ, in throwing distance from the nail salon. Funny thing, though, when international surveillance photos show pictures of some of the worst gangsters on earth, "The Accountant" is often seen (from the back, always) chatting it up with them.

Until his identity is discovered --Christian Wolff, the same as the German philosopher  (as well as an avant-garde composer and friend of John Cage and Morton Feldman). He is, in secret, a forensic accountant to some of the worst human beings known.

"Who serves this clientele?" asks the Treasury Department director of investigations (J. K. Simmons) who wants to find out all he can in the couple of months remaining before his retirement. ("I was old 10 years ago" he jokes to underlings.)

Interesting folks, Wolff's clientele. They don't always pay him with money. Sometimes they give him a Renoir they happen to have lying around. Or maybe a Jackson Pollock that clashed with the drapes. He keeps the paintings stashed in an Airstream trailer he keeps hidden in storage.

Wait. We're not finished yet.

Not only is Wolff an accountant for the mega-villains of the worst of the worst and lowest of the low, he's also an assassin who can turn three cantaloupes into orange mush from a mile away with an anti-aircraft gun. He can also knock a platoon full of killers into plant food with deadly martial arts.

I have no idea how they stuck with a title like "The Accountant" for a pretty nifty action movie. I rather like the wry little joke of it-- that Ben Affleck would play an autistic mathematical savant who doubles as a marksman and martial arts neck-breaker of quas-superhero efficiency. And that the movie would sarcastically be called "The Accountant."

A nice comic-book/graphic novel would have that kind of conceit.

And a decent action movie if you ask me from director Gavin O'Connor and writer Bill Dubuque. My personal advice is to erase the substantial number of  critics and headline writers dying to tell the world that the movie "doesn't add up." As a good, ripping and nicely eccentric two-hour shoot-em-up and fantasia of punch'n'crunch, it not only adds up, I think, but finds some dandy loopholes to charm you.

The very idea of an autistic action hero is pretty good, I think -- especially because he remains loyal to others on the more extreme ends of the autism spectrum.

All that is just the cleverness of the setting of "The Accountant." The main action begins when our man Christian takes an accounting gig investigating the books of a huge zillion-dollar robotics firm because a lowly clerk in the financial department thinks she found something funny.

She's played by Anna Kendrick, a provider of cinematic sunshine of no small experience. When she was a kid, she was a big wheel in her high-school mathematics club. If Christian is the kind of off-the-wall genius who usually prefers living inside a world of numbers, the young math club whiz likes to hide from the world in numbers because they're where she knows she can be safe.

Unless, of course, she finds her almost-perfect counterpart in the world who is differently gendered. So there's a sweet little almost-romance going on here for these two Super-Number-crunchers, one of whom consorts with the most violent humans alive.

Before movies began subsuming superhero comics wholesale for major actors, movies like this would never have floated such a plot and such a big marquee lead actor who is also an Oscar-winning director.

And while we're ticking off gold statuettes in the cast, don't forget Oscar-winner J. K. Simmons as the treasury investigative whiz on Wolff's case, who also has a secret of his own. And, as Wolff's old friend in prison, seen in flashback, we've got Jeffrey Tambor who can't seem to stop winning Emmys for his role in "Transparent."

Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays the Treasury worker and mega-sleuth who puts all the pieces together under Simmons' supervision (puzzles are a theme in this movie). For good measure, John Lithgow is along as Christian's newest megabuck employer.

Nothing about "The Accountant" is too intricate for us mathematical dullards. It's all white hats vs. black hats even if everyone has a secret life that gets explained along the way. Very graphic-novel-like, that.

Until the shooting and the martial arts mangling start and there's enough of that for any superhero movie.

What makes it though is that extra little dollop of eccentricity. A lot of action and a little charm can go a long way.


"The Accountant"

3 stars (out of four)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow

Director: Gavin O'Connor

Running time: 128 minutes

Rating: R for strong violence and language

The lowdown: An autistic accountant for international crime doubles as a vengeful assassin.


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