In “The Accountant” Ben Affleck plays a pocket-protector-wearing forensic bookkeeper who “risks his life cooking the books for some of the scariest people on the planet; drug cartels, arms brokers, money launderers, assassins.” An autistic math genius with a violent side, he survives his dangerous world through dual facilities for math and mayhem.
Affleck is Christian Wolff. By day he’s a small town strip mall CPA, but when the sun goes down his darker side emerges. Working for the worst of the worst he erases money trails and helps bad guys and gals launder money.
Although Christian has trouble relating to people there are several folks who would dearly like to meet him. First is the soon-to-be retired Treasury agent Director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons)—“I was old ten years ago,” he says.”—who assigns financial analyst (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to the case. “He’s like, a CPA accountant?” she asks. “Not quite,” replies agent Ray King (J. K. Simmons) in what might be the understatement of the year.
Just as worrisome, but infinitely deadlier is Braxton (Jon Bernthal), a hitman hired by a robotics company to eliminate Christian and researcher Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) after they exposed the company’s fraud.
Luckily Christian (or whichever alias he’s using today) is part James Bond, part John Nash. A deadly mix of tactician and mathematician, he balances the books by offing some bad guys. “How does he do that?” asks Braxton. “Hit them over the head with an adding machine?”
There are twists and turns aplenty in “The Accountant” but at its heart the movie is a character study. Affleck, never a particularly animated actor, excels in a role that requires him to stay an arm’s length from people—unless he’s engaged in up-close-and-personal face-to-face combat. He is the film’s core, the center from which everything else revolves.
Sadly everyone else is underused, including Kendrick, Simmons, Lithgow and Tambor. It’s a stellar and seasoned supporting cast but by the end credits it’s clear they exist simply to give Wolff a reason to go on his mission. Addai-Robinson, best known from TV work on shows like “Arrow” and “Chicago Med,” benefits from some extended screen time, although her big scene involves some third act exposition that goes on for much longer than necessary.
“The Accountant” doesn’t add anything to the conversation about autism or how people on the spectrum really lead their lives, but despite longwinded explanations, flashbacks and story swerves, it’s a tautly told story that satisfies as a thriller.