Movie Review - The Accountant

Yes, this is a Ben Affleck movie. No, he didn't direct it, but the takeaway is probably going to be his performance, as it will be one to add to the ever-growing stable of films about autism. Unlike most, this isn't just a sentimental drama aiming to be a tearjerker or a highly sympathetic look to the struggles of people with development disorders, or mental issues like Rain Man (1988). It's instead trying to be a thriller or quasi-action film that's supposed to show even a person on the spectrum can be a bad-ass, stone-cold killer in the vein of John Wick (2014). A lot of the marketing leading up to the release of this movie compared it to Jason Bourne. This isn't quite correct. The comparison to the Keanu Reeves movie John Wick is probably more appropriate.

Gavin O'Connor is the director and O'Connor is known as the man behind Warrior, a kind of sports drama about two brothers who live separate lives, distanced due to parental issues, who then come together by the end after fighting each other physically. Not to spoil this movie too much, but it's basically a remake or what could be called the spiritual sequel to Warrior. While O'Connor's 2011 film was more grappling with socioeconomic issues and fatherly abuse churning sibling rivalry, here it's the discrimination and difficulty of autism or similar birth defects and mental disorders.

Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a man who is autistic but who is high-functioning. He's sensory-sensitive and he's obsessive-compulsive about completing tasks. As is the stereotype, probably started with Rain Man, he's very good at math. It's not the first film that Affleck has done about a person who's super-good at math. It's reminiscent of the film, which won Affleck his first Academy Award, Good Will Hunting (1997). Yet, Affleck is ostensibly in the role that Matt Damon had. With the comparisons to Jason Bourne, which also starred Matt Damon, one could argue that Affleck is somewhat chasing Damon's career. This role, however, isn't as charming or engaging, though by design. Autistic characters have the stereotype of being socially awkward and even emotionally awkward. Here, Affleck is practically robotic.

If anything, this could stand as an origin story for Affleck's version of Batman. There are flashbacks here akin to Batman Begins where you see his younger version learning martial arts and practicing ballistics. The ending has a bit of a hokey resolution that echoed the one in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman and Superman aren't brothers, but spiritually could be considered two sides of the same coin. As here, the fight in Batman V. Superman is ceased due to an expression of parental connection.

The writing is a little lacking in the conspiracy that builds in the plot. Assassins are sent to kill Christian Wolff and it's a leap in logic as to why his character is targeted and is needed to die. Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect) plays Dana Cummings, a fellow accountant who is targeted for death too and the reason she's targeted is too over-the-top. She's never a threat, or a threat that rises to the level of assassination.

J. K. Simmons (Whiplash and Juno) co-stars as Ray King, a director at the Treasury Department. He's aware of an accountant that works for several, criminal organizations like several, hardcore, mafia groups. He assigns and in fact blackmails a young, black, female analyst into helping him find the accountant. The analyst is Marybeth Medina, played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus: War of the Damned and Arrow).

Again, like in Batman V. Superman, Ray King and Marybeth engage in a brief debate about vigilantism and if they should be going after this accountant, even when it's revealed that he brutally killed about nine people. Because those people are mobsters, we're supposed not to care. This accountant is meant to be one of the lovable anti-heroes that have dominated film and TV culture for now nearly twenty years, exemplified with such characters as Tony Soprano, Walter White and Dexter Morgan.

Marybeth is given a back story almost intentionally designed to make her character more empathetic to the idea of vigilantism, or committing violence in the aim of some greater good but in reality for revenge. At no point does the movie profess any moral certitude or counter-balance to the sheer, ugly and brutal masculine expression that might is right.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong language and violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 8 mins.


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