At the movies: “The Accountant,” nicely crunching box office numbers
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
* * * (B)
Directed By Gavin O’Connor
Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal
Warner Bros., Rated R, Thriller, 128 minutes
From Sherlock Holmes to Monk, fictional literature and television are littered with socially inept, savant detectives. “The Accountant” is a fresh take, creating a gifted accountant who operates within his own universe of morality. Portrayed by Ben Affleck, Chris Wolff suffers from a form of autism. In flashback we learn of his dedicated father, a military psychologist determined to raise Wolff and his younger brother to become self-sufficient men. Consequently, math genius, adult Wolff, pulls down huge paydays cooking the books for dangerous criminal organizations. He survives these jobs by extricating himself using false identities and, when necessary, a variety of well-honed militaristic skills.
Wolff’s stripped-down lifestyle, and his ability to change both his name and location at a moment’s notice, are well-conceived plot devices. Likewise, flashbacks to his childhood weave seamlessly into the narrative, revealing the practices that have shaped him.
Hearkening back to his father’s philosophy in preparing Wolff to be independent, both humor and brutality define the daily regimen that leads to maintaining Wolff’s high-functioning autistic status.
He is being covertly investigated by a U.S. Treasury Agent (J.K. Simmons), along with one of the agent’s underlings (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), when Wolff accepts a legitimate job offer from Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), founder of a revolutionary prosthetics company called Living Robotics. Wolff is hired to follow up on a multi-million dollar bookkeeping discrepancy found by company junior accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). After an awkward first meeting, it becomes apparent she is his ideal romantic match.
Twists and turns populate the story as Wolff struggles to understand and relate to others, his most difficult task despite high intelligence.
The action sequences, depicting multiple killings, are balanced by the knowledge that the guilty are being punished while the innocent are spared.
Since the film highlights our limited ability to treat autism, I read several articles on the subject. Since the 1960s, each decade ushers in new treatment approaches. Over the last 20 years, better diagnostic techniques identify twice the number of previously found cases, meaning one in 68 children is currently labeled autistic. With no cure in sight, Wolff’s character is right on trend. It’s also the perfect vehicle to showcase Affleck’s talents and a character ripe for sequels.