It’s been a while since an accountant has played the role of hero in Hollywood, hasn’t it? They had a good run in the early 90s, with characters like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, Itzhak Stern in Schindler’s List, and the shotgun-toting G-man Oscar Wallace in The Untouchables. But since then, money men are usually portrayed as greasy stock brokers and scummy drug launderers. Not today, though. Not your accountant; not The Accountant. He’s a man who can balance books and settle scores without breaking a sweat. He crunches numbers and bones with the same cold, calculated precision.
Your pocket protector must be popping out of your shirt just thinking about it.
Christian Wolff as a character, however, is hardly the Christian Grey of ledgers and spreadsheets. He’s more like the love child of Rain Man and John Wick: a man who channels his autism into superhuman skills, like book-balancing and double-tap executions tothe face. He takes the silent loner hero to the extreme, uttering only the most essential words for communication, never employing an unnecessary face muscle. He is, essentially, a medically diagnosed Bruce Wayne, which is no doubt a calculated filler role for Ben Affleck between Batman projects.
Your surrogate in the film comes in the most petite of female forms – Anna Kendrick – who, beside Affleck, looks more like a Chihuahua than a feasible love interest. Not that this is the kind of film that’s interested in sparks of romance. As Kendrick’s character uncovers hints of shady accounting practices at her robotics corporation, she herself is a surrogate for the idea of love and compassion, which Affleck’s character is robotically trying to process while dodging bullets and paper cuts in equal measure.
So what does it all add up to? More than a run-of-the-mill action-drama, but nothing that’s going to produce impressive numbers (be it dollars or critical scores). Director Gavin O’Connor paces out the story turns with almost mathematical diligence, delivering new information just as what we’ve come to know starts to feel predictable and stale. It’s likely that he’s trying to establish some sort of Poindexter Jason Bourne franchise, which might make for interesting story opportunities in the future , since this film feels so indebted to backstory that it sometimes struggles to move forward.
Affleck, here, is a strangely compelling screen presence, and continues to cash in on this new phase of his career in which he plays quiet and charisma-drained characters. The Accountant, in fact, feels like yet another (and exaggerated) apology for the unabashed confidence and melodramatic expressiveness he exuded in his 20s and early 30s. He’s not the motor-mouth political pundit who could sleep with the world’s biggest superstars anymore. He has an undeniable talent—it just needs to be channeled into bankable roles that play to his strength (not movies where he’s just trying to make a Paycheck). And if you don’t think all these decisions were calculated when he took on The Accountant, you still have a lot to learn about the job.