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The Accountant ***

Accounting has never before been this exciting.

Is it worth $10? Yes

You don’t see many characters like Ben Affleck’s Christian Wolff in “The Accountant.” He’s autistic. Socially awkward. Brilliant with numbers. A merciless killer. Trained in martial arts. Has a moral code that’s different from most. There’s nothing “normal” nor conventional about him, and that’s what makes him – and the movie – so fun to watch.

Ostensibly, Affleck’s Wolff is a mild-mannered, glasses and pocket protector-wearing nerd. He’s a lowly strip mall accountant 20 miles outside of Chicago. Dig deeper, as Treasury Department Director Ray King (J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”) blackmails underling Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into doing, and there’s much more: Money laundering. Cooking the books for criminals all over the world. Secret identities. A private arsenal of weapons. Wolff is all business like Clark Kent in the office, Superman in the streets.



While Medina tries to find Wolff, he gets a new assignment: Help a robotics company that’s about to go public identify a hole in its accounting books. Of all the things we see Wolff do, this is where he seems most comfortable. It’s a room full of journals, and as he whispers the numbers to myself, scribbles on the board and does impossible math in his head, it’s clear he’s doing it in a way that only makes sense to him. The montage here, coupled with the musical score by Mark Isham, successfully makes forensic accounting not only interesting, but fascinating. Think about what an accomplishment that is!

Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), his sister Rita (Jean Smart) and his best friend Ed (Andy Umberger) run the robotics company. It was their accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick, “Pitch Perfect”) who found the aforementioned discrepancy. When unexpected closure comes to the situation, chaos ensues, which leads to the only decision Wolff makes that is incongruous with his personality. These gaps in logic risk possible audience disengagement from the story, particularly because it had been so sound to this point. Thankfully there’s a nice recovery and the plot never ventures too far in the wrong direction.


As you can tell, there’s plenty going on here. Although it’s a flaw to have supporting characters played by well-known actors (including Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”) and Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)) disappear for extended periods of time, the focus appropriately remains on Wolff. This is smart. Director Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior”) and screenwriter Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”) know Wolff is unique, and seek to explore him in as many ways as possible, which includes flashbacks to Wolff’s difficult upbringing. 

It’s easy to knock Affleck’s limited acting skills, but lately he’s smartly chosen roles he can handle well (“Argo”), and he’s done the same here. Affleck did ample research on autism and spent time with autistic people, and it shows in his performance. It’s a snide, unfair and possibly offensive remark to say the blank expression on Wolff’s face and monotone voice are part of yet another bland Affleck performance; let’s give him credit for doing the research, handling the physical elements well, and playing a thoroughly convincing and intriguing character effectively.

“The Accountant” is a solid action drama that yes, has some excess at 128 minutes, but also has gritty action, pleasant surprises and a satisfying conclusion. You’ll find other movies that are sort of like it, but no other character is quite like Christian Wolff.

Did you know?
Anna Kendrick’s character says her father is an accountant; in real life Kendrick’s mother is an accountant.

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