The Accountant banks on simpler times

Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a seemingly meek CPA with a mysterious past. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a seemingly meek CPA with a mysterious past. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Who knew a straightforward, predictable, high-concept action mystery starring Batman on his off-season would be just the palate cleanser we needed this year? Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant harkens back to a simpler time in the film industry, before every member of every superhero team needed his own spin-off series, when the central idea behind an action movie wasn’t much more than “This guy is really good at fighting and shooting, except he’s [fill in the blank],” in this case he’s a high-functioning autistic.

The Accountant
R, 128 minutes
Violet Crown Cinema and Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

That may seem like a recipe for disaster, and the question of whether our hero’s condition is accurately represented is one better left to professionals than to film critics, but the premise is handled with extremely good taste and pays off in unexpected ways as the story progresses. The eponymous accountant is Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), a seemingly meek CPA with a mysterious past and a highly illegal side business helping criminals, gangs and militias clean up their money trail. Treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons), nearing retirement, enlists—read: blackmails—skillful analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to track down this unnaturally talented money launderer, who is strangely difficult to identify and impossibly capable in combat.

Meanwhile, Wolff, in need of a lower profile and legally sound job, begins reviewing a robotics company founded by Lamar Black (John Lithgow) after a suspicious shortfall in the books is discovered by Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). This puts Christian in conflict with Brax (Jon Bernthal), a ruthless security contractor. Brax will stop at nothing to protect his clients and their investments, while Christian cannot quit a task until it’s complete. They are polar opposites—and therefore perfect enemies.

This sounds preposterous, and it is, but O’Connor makes the right call in committing to the premise fully, embracing the silliness rather than winking at the audience in a bid for so-bad-it’s-good points. Christian is a one-man army in a way that is occasionally as satisfying as John Wick, even if the two films are not even close to comparable in terms of quality and craftsmanship. The plot twists are many and very obviously broadcasted, but after a certain point this also becomes engaging as we wait for the characters to figure out the big secret. Every 20 minutes or so, however, O’Connor and screenwriter Bill Dubuque apparently realize they neglected to advance the plot, leading to very long stretches of interminable exposition until the next set piece. It can be frustrating, but if you buckle down and let the people talk (and can tolerate the 128-minute runtime) you’ll probably end up forgiving that flaw.

O’Connor, Dubuque and Affleck have clearly done their homework on certain aspects of different types of autism and other characters elsewhere on the spectrum manifest in different ways, and are portrayed as individuals, never objects of pity. The film’s sense of humor is always in good fun and never targets anyone unfairly, neurotypical characters included.

The Accountant may not compare to the best older-guy-kicking-ass movies out there, but with Affleck still in his 40s and the star of legitimate action blockbusters, it may be a premature comparison. That said, the appeals are similar, and while The Accountant is too long, silly and very predictable, if you need something to tide you over until John Wick 2 later this year, you could do a lot worse.

Playing this week

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

The Birth of a Nation, Deepwater Horizon, The Girl on the Train, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: IMAX, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: IMAX, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: IMAX, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: IMAX, Kevin Hart: What Now?, Max Steel, The Magnificent Seven, Masterminds, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Queen of Katwe, Storks, Sully

Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-—The Touring Years, The Birth of a Nation, Deepwater Horizon, The Girl on the Train, Hell or High Water, Kevin Hart: What Now?, The Magnificent Seven, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Storks, Sully

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