The Accountant is one of those films one thinks they have all figured out heading into the theater after merely watching the trailer. It features a "different" kid learning to control his affliction and growing up to be an accountant who "uncooks the books" for the most dangerous men in the world and stays under the radar. He's also good with guns, not good with people, and gets himself into a deadly situation or two. Is that all there is? The answer is no.
The film, directed by the gifted Gavin O'Connor, turns out to be so much more and carries a few good surprises for the audience. It's also a highly entertaining and rewarding cinematic experience, and is carried by the strong man of action performance from Ben Affleck.
This is the first action adventure to feature an autism afflicted protagonist, and O'Connor does an expert job of weaving the condition into the plot instead of simply staging it as a gimmick. Affleck's Christian Wolff is a special kid who has intense mental focus but finds it hard to connect with other people and needs to train himself by turning up loud music and massaging his leg with a stick before popping a Zoloft once a night for twenty minutes. What Wolff gains in mental sharpness he loses in social interaction, but in his profession that only helps him. Until a certain account throws his entire life into chaos and disorder.
This is the perfect role for Affleck to take and run with. Playing Wolff doesn't require a ton of dialogue but needs a fair amount of restraint and authority. If the Fleck would have overplayed the role and tried to take control over the actual story, it would have been bad for the overall execution. It's a good thing the "aging like a fine wine" movie star has gotten better with age and knows exactly what to do with the gifted Wolff. The Batman star is extraordinarily comfortable around these kinds of characters, and it shows early on.
It also helps that Affleck is physically gifted himself, and has the charisma and stamina to take ahold of an action hero role and give it something extra. The man doesn't take layups these days and owns a couple Oscars. It's an assured performance that grounds the film and isn't afraid to produce a comedic quip when needed without taking the film in a wrong direction. Kudos to O'Connor for injecting this tale with a dose of the Fleck.
A strong supporting cast doesn't hurt any film. Anna Kendrick plays a woman who helps topple Wolff's carefully conceived life, and she shares some great scenes with Affleck as two people who love the same things but take a different path to that place in their lives. J.K. Simmons has a key role as an agent on Wolff's trail and Jeffrey Tambor only gets a few scene but does some fine work. Jon Bernthal is a gritty guy who fits into so many tales, and he gives the role of an opposing gun much more than expected. His character is more than meets the eye and Bernthal thrives.
O'Connor doesn't work a lot, but when he does the movie is a must watch. He turned one of the greatest USA hockey stories into memorable film with Miracle. He directed one of the most underrated cop tales in Pride and Glory and introduced the world to Tom Hardy, Frank Grillo, and MMA in 2011's Warrior. He makes heartfelt action driven tales with something extra. Here, he takes a deep dive inside the mind of a savant with a dark secret and has some fun.
Yes, it is possible to have fun and create an action flick around autism. Without becoming preachy or overbearing, O'Connor uses the affliction as a guide for his tale and for Affleck to create something worth watching. He installs hope in a predicament that few films will touch without a comfortable base to fall back on. This is one of those films that you think is easy to peg and then it hits you in the side of the head like a bullet fired out of one of the large rifles Wolff uses in the film.
O'Connor can also create stylized action sequences and along with screenwriter Bill Dubuque(The Judge and the upcoming The Headhunter's Calling) dishes out some thinking man's action goodness. You can't sell this film without announcing like it's a got a brain and can produce a gun fight and car chase worthy of your attention.
Like its protagonist, The Accountant has intense focus on producing not only an exciting film to enjoy on a calm and cool Thursday night, but something that raises awareness for autism and promotes a different way to look at its world of souls who deal with it at a young and older age.
There aren't many directors and stars who can bring those unique two things to the table(action thriller and disorder) and deliver something compelling and satisfying.
Affleck and O'Connor won't receive Oscars for their efforts here, but they get a special stamp of approval from this critic for giving me more than I expected.
The Accountant will debut in theaters Thursday evening and is worth your time and money. It's taut entertainment with a brain attached to it.