Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: The Accountant

Ben Affleck stars in the film. The Accountant.
Ben Affleck stars in the film. The Accountant.

There are many insightful films about autism. The Accountant, which stars Ben Affleck as the on-the-spectrum numbers man of the title whose services extend to making an actual killing is not one of them.

To expect this to be would be anything but exploitative of autism would be like hoping Affleck's visually impaired Daredevil might lead to wider understanding of blindness or his Batman might expound on the sad life of orphans.

Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.
Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.

The Accountant is basically an Asperger's Syndrome superhero movie disguised as a crime thriller. It's ludicrous fun and care of Affleck's deliberately wooden performance, frequently deadpan funny.

And it's an original. Though it eventually squanders its intriguing premise of a math savant underworld forensic accountant who is also a sociopathic killer.

Having teased out a few puzzling plotlines, it delivers some data-dumps of plot explanation towards the end. And having started out feeling fresh, The Accountant reverts to seen-it-before hitman thriller.

Still, this Rain Man vs Henchmen is certainly more exciting than Batman Vs Superman.

And Affleck is also much better in this, as Christian Wolff he gets to play a bit of both Clark Kent (geek in glasses with double life) and Bruce Wayne (brooding rich bloke scarred by parental tragedy).

Wolff's path to becoming lethal bookkeeper, we learn in some hefty flashbacks, involved a less-than-protective brother, an extreme tough-love dad, an absent mother and a prison cellmate mentor in underworld accounting practice (Jeffrey Tambor, causing Arrested Development flashbacks).

Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.
Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.

Christian lives and works alone, apart from a mysterious PA only ever heard on the phone. His work has made him rich. Among the non-liquid assets he's stored away alongside paintings by Pollock and Renoir, is an original Superman comic. It might be the wrong fit for an inside joke but it's fitting because the film itself feels like a comic book adaptation.

It's not. Though the script by Bill Dubuque (The Judge) was turned into a graphic novel last year to help launch the film to the Comic-Con crowd. On screen, there's something very speech-bubble about the dialogue. Especially among the supporting characters who get big back stories like JK Simmons as the head Treasury Agent who ropes in a promising junior to find out the true identity of the shadowy Accountant.

Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.
Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.

Meanwhile, Christian has taken a break from uncooking the books of drug cartels and weapons dealers, and has taken a legit assignment at Living Robotics, a prosthetics firm run by a brilliant tech entrepreneur (John Lithgow) and from which millions have been siphoned, the discrepancy discovered by junior financial exec Dana (Anna Kendrick, cute, again).

As Christian spends his days trying to crack the fraud, covering whiteboards and glass or the company's meeting room with his equations (as maths must always be done in movies), Dana tries to crack his implacable face.

Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.
Ben Affleck stars in the film, The Accountant.

But the budding romance is interrupted when Christian finds both the authorities and a contract killer hired by an unhappy client are on his tail, putting Dana in danger too.

By which time Affleck's character has transformed from cold-blooded crook to gawky good guy and we're on our way, via rising body count, to a deeply groan-worthy finale.

No, the ending of The Accountant doesn't quite add up. But as a puzzler-thriller with pretensions to smartness, it still does the business, just.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor J.K. Simmons
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Rating: R16 (violence and offensive language)
Running time: 128 mins
Verdict: Affleck, autism and accounting combine for enjoyable if ropy action movie.

- TimeOut

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