The Accountant is Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck). At least, that’s the name that he’s using throughout the film. Because Wolff isn’t just the mild-mannered, somewhat socially abrasive CPA that he appears to be. He is revealed to be highly trained in combat, and to have done work for some of the most dangerous organizations in the world. The film follows Wolff on what at first appears to be a routine corporate job. He’s been brought on to find money that seems to have gone from the books of a tech company. As he gets closer to the truth, however, the people involved seem to just start dying.
There’s a lot more going on in this movie. It isn’t content with being just one kind of film. Along the way, we get flashbacks to the Accountant’s childhood, which kind of play out like a superhero origin story. They also hint at the bizarre family drama that will eventually play out. The job in this story gives him the opportunity at some romance when he is introduced to Dana (Anna Kendrick), the in-house accountant that first discovered the financial anomalies. There’s also the parallel track that involves Treasury agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), who is basically blackmailed into taking on the case of the Accountant.
It’s too many movies in one. In fits and bursts, the film can be a corporate thriller, a superhero movie, a mismatched pair romantic comedy, an outsized family drama, and a police procedural. And underlying all these disparate forms of cinema is the central idea that the Accountant is a high-functioning autistic. The movie can be viewed as a strange PSA for development disabilities, with a central figure that has turned what generally considered setbacks into the things that make him remarkable. The film more than suggests that it is the autism that allows Wolff to dispatch threats so handily, all while being so effective as an accountant.
There is merit to that concept, but it can get a little questionable at times. The story traffics in a kind of moral ambiguity that also suggests all manner of things about the main character and his disability. The character is just a little too quick to kill. The film at times plays its violence like a joke, a headshot arriving as a punchline at a very crucial moment in the film. It’s part of the greater contradictions of the movie. It is a film that at its heart, calls for empathy, at times playing up the wonder gained from connecting to people different from us. At the same time, the central character will just coldly kill people. In order to make this work, the film basically makes the bad guys completely horrible, which clashes with the fairly rigid reality portrayed in the film.
It doesn’t all work out, but it’s still fairly entertaining. If one can get over the occasional queasiness of the film, it presents a series of ludicrous yet undeniably fun scenarios. Embracing the underlying silliness might be the best tack, as the film verges on high camp by the very end of this film. Ben Affleck offers up a restrained performance that doesn’t overplay the main character’s disability. Anna Kendrick plies her likability to a pretty thankless role. JK Simmons adds worthy grit to a character that’s basically a plot device.
The Accountant is an odd film that tries to be too many things, but one can’t discount how weirdly fun it can be. Occasionally it arrives a truly odd moment that melds together all the disparate approaches to telling this story, in the process creating the rare, singular experience. It doesn’t always work, and the moral queasiness at the heart of this story cannot be discounted either. It’s a mixed experience that is difficult to sum up.