By Tim estiloz
In the new film, The Accountant, Ben Affleck turns in a wonderfully nuanced, complex and intriguing performance as the most unexpected and unassuming of action heroes. Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an introverted, mild-mannered mathematics savant and CPA who leads a multi-faceted, tightly controlled and contradictory life.
On one hand, we find Wolff as a quiet but sympathetic small town strip mall accountant willing to help a struggling, but honest, Midwestern couple finesse their business deductions to stay financially afloat. Yet, in another incarnation on-screen, Wolff is suspected by the U.S. Treasury Department of quietly managing the multi-million dollar finances and blood money of the world’s worst arms dealers, mobsters and myriad other nefarious underworld characters.
However, Wolff’s third professional incarnation is by far the most surprising by comparison. This outwardly socially inept accountant is also an amazingly calm and calculating assassin; expertly skilled in martial arts and heavy duty weaponry. In this professional moonlighting role, Wolff is as efficiently adept as crunching the bones of multiple foes in brutal hand-to-hand combat as he is at crunching numbers for his clients.
While Wolff lives in a sparsely furnished suburban home; he also has a private storage unit that houses a pristine Airstream trailer eccentrically decked out with prized collectibles ranging from an original Jackson Pollock painting to a Star Wars light saber signed by George Lucas. However, this trailer also serves as Wolff’s mobile arsenal of high tech weaponry, passports and small fortune in hard cash and gold bullion.
Foremost among Wolff’s unique qualities is the fact that his aloof, seemingly eccentric behavior is the result of a life dealing with high functioning autism since childhood. It’s a fascinating plot point that threads its way throughout the film; frequently told in flashback, which explains how he acquired the dangerous skills, and perhaps his motivation, that he puts to use in extracurricular fashion beyond his mundane CPA strip mall job.
Based on these dark, enigmatic elements alone, as well as Affleck’s most recent superhero film choices elsewhere ( Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice ) it might be easy to dismiss this film as Batman wearing a pen pocket protector. However, director Gavin O’Connor and the screenplay manages to deftly balance these multiple incongruous elements into a taut and suspenseful narrative where the disparate storyline threads convincingly come together.
When Wolff’s off-camera assistant arranges a seemingly less dangerous contract for him to figure out a multi-million dollar discrepancy for robotics technology giant, Lamar Black ( John Lithgow ); the job, on the surface, appears to be an easy paycheck and respite from the usual underworld danger. While working the job, Wolff gradually lets his guard down to begin a tentative friendship with Dana Cummings ( Anna Kendrick ) a young, enthusiastic finance analyst who first discovered the discrepancy at the firm Wolff is working for.
However, after Wolff gets close too the truth behind the financial glitch; central characters start dying and both he and Dana are next on the hit list; thanks to the deadly handiwork of another ruthless assassin ( Jon Bernthal ) for reasons unknown.
The Accountant is a well-crafted film in the mold of “John Wick” or “Jack Reacher” where the protagonist is an enigmatic loner and killing machine; whose inner layers and violent motivations are fascinating to watch be revealed as the film evolves. Affleck is superb portraying a complex character of many faces; yet in an understated fashion that makes the explosively violent, and amazingly choreographed, action scenes all the more effectively jarring.
Additionally, Affleck and Kendrick have a wonderful chemistry that adds some levity and a modicum of sweetness to the increasingly dangerous proceedings as he works to protect her and uncover the truth. The finale of the film, right down to the final scenes, reveals some clever and unexpected surprises.
The Accountant is definitely worth the investment of your time and cash.