This improbable thriller starts out strong but quickly becomes bogged down in unnecessary plot twists.
He’s an accountant. But he’s also a hitman. But he’s also a high-functioning autistic. But he’s also a martial arts expert. And a marksman. Oh, and he’s an art lover. He has a Renoir, but he prefers the Pollack.
Man, it would’ve been a fun room to be in when they pitched that particular storyline. And yet, the pitch worked, with the result being what you get when you combine A Beautiful Mind with Jason Bourne. If that sounds somewhat genre bending, it is, and there’s even a bunch of quirky comedy in there to really mix things up.
Ultimately, the premise of The Accountant by director Gavin O'Connor is as out there as it sounds: Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a genius mathematician whose autism saw his mother abandon the family during childhood and his military father apply psy-ops (psychological operations) training to inure both Christian and his brother to the world of hardship that awaited them as adults. Twenty years later and all grown up, Christian now operates as an accountant specialist to the international worst of the worst: mafia, drug cartels and gun runners, oh my! The Treasury wants to know who he is, and a cutting-edge robotics company wants his services to track down missing millions from its accounts.
Wild as it sounds, the opening stages of this movie actually hold up pretty well. Affleck plays Wolff very much like his recent portrayal of Bruce Wayne: hulking, detached and entirely socially awkward. There are the clichéd maths montages featuring blinking-eyed number crunching and frenzied writing on walls, but overall his representation of one of the more misunderstood neurological conditions is impressively understated.
The rest of the film, however, takes a rather sudden turn for the worse about an hour in. Its determination to throw in plot twist after plot twist results in some excruciating exposition-heavy scenes, the violence is extreme and comic-booky (think John Wick with a tick), and the characters’ lives all end up being far more intertwined than necessary. The supporting cast is a strong one, including Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor and John Bernthal, however none are given the kind of material needed to properly showcase their talents.
The result is a film adrift, floating from one genre to the next without ever properly settling. It has some touching (and much needed) language about ‘different, not worse’ when it comes to non-neurotypicals, but the constant limb-cracking and blood-smattering surrounding it means the message is fast muddled and forgotten. One suspects the film may suffer a similar and disappointing fate.