By Laurie Coker
Ben Affleck is perhaps as comfortable behind the camera as he is in front of it, if not more so. Regardless, he finds his rhythm as the titular character in his latest turn as a leading man in The Accountant. Director Gavin O’Connor, from a screenplay by Bill Dubuque, makes the best use of his leading man, even as Dubuque’s plot lumbers along a bit too transparently. In the lead, surrounded by an excellent (albeit, underused) ensemble cast, Affleck makes an otherwise ludicrous story entertaining and forgivable.
Christian Wolff makes mathematics interesting, and as a child, he took ridicule and taunting for his genius and oddness. His father, brother and he are left alone to face the unkind world, when the boy’s mother simply walks away. In defense and as a means to protect his son’s their father has them trained in hand-to-hand, and apparently, armed combat. As adults, armed with their special skills, one becomes a protector and the other an accountant and ironically an assassin. His social skills are quirky, rehearsed and off-putting, but his tactical skills are as honed as his mathematical genius. Essentially, he cooks books for crooks, but offers more lethal services as well, taking out some extremely bad people.
What is most fascinating about Christian comes in his autism, all though the film makes a point of negating the concept of labeling children (or adults for that matter). Affleck manages all the affect most notable in persons with this particular personality. In prison, although it is not clear exactly why he is there, he befriends a man (Jeffery Tambor) who understands him and works to train Christian to feign social norms – to try to read, understand and show empathy to others. It’s compelling to watch the character and how he interacts within the so called “normal” world – even if this one seems to be filled with criminals, murderers and deceit.
Anna Kendrick, John Lithgow, J.K.’ Simmons and others are almost after thoughts to the story, offering a bit of tensions, background detail and in some cases, fodder. While the cast is excellent, it is Affleck who mesmerizes. Realism goes out the window in almost every aspect of the film, but Christian Wolff is engaging, curiously interesting, down right hot – all attributed to Affleck’s ability to capture the essence of his character’s behaviors and compulsions and sports a suit and tie better than Michael Phelps does a swimsuit. Order, organization and oddly, chaos seem to feed Wolff’s needs and make him completely captivating.
The Accountant, rated R for violence, is too long, but action sequences, no matter how asinine intrigue, even when the premise falls apart. O’Connor knows how to use his cast and his skill and eye behind the camera, craftily create tense moments and excellent imagery. Affleck and Christian Wolff makes forensic accounting sexy. I am placing a B- in my grade book. While The Accountant has a great deal going for it falters in its overt implausibility.