By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Like its protagonist, The Accountant is all over the place.
It’s a cartoonish action thriller about title character Christian Wolff, played by Ben Affleck, a mathematics savant who can cook the books like nobody’s business.
Chris is a mild-mannered, socially awkward guy with highly advanced cognitive skills. He has, in other words, been afflicted by and diagnosed with Asberger syndrome and is thus a heck of a lot better with numbers than he is with people.
But after an opening in which we look in on Chris as a child — scenes that would seem to set us up for an exploration of the autism spectrum through the lens of the high-functioning Chris — the film goes elsewhere.
“Can our son ever be normal?” asks his father.
The response: “Define normal.”
And then the film drops or ignores that narrative thrust for just about the rest of the running time.
Chris’s father, given his military background, worried that Chris might be picked on, so he made sure to provide him with the kind of training that would allow him to defend himself.
As an adult, Chris works out of a modest CPA office, but it’s a front for his moonlighting gig: as a forensic accountant and highly trained assassin for dangerous criminal organizations and cartels and terrorist cells.
Yep, t here is just no accounting for morally muddy premises: this one seems ridiculous on paper and never really attains any kind of credibility.
Chris lands a new client, a high-tech robotics company that needs him to account for a big-money discrepancy in their books that was discovered by one of the company’s junior accountants, played by Anna Kendrick, who brings a much rosier outlook to her work than Chris does.
As for Chris, he continues to crunch a lot more than numbers.
Director Gavin O’Connor (Jane Got a Gun, Tumbleweeds, Miracle, Pride and Glory, Warrior) works from a convoluted screenplay by Bill Dubuque that devolves into a shoot-‘em-up in the third act.
O’Connor’s supporting cast – J.K. Simmons as the head of the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division who’s hot on Chris’s Chris’s trail, Jon Bernthal as a fellow assassin, John Lithgow as the boss of the robotics firm, and Jeffrey Tambor as Chris’s mentor — is uniformly fine.
But the film’s big reveal – which will not be divulged here – not only doesn’t surprise, it doesn’t convince either.
What we have here, then, is a bit of a puzzle. But what’s most puzzling is the way the various elements of the film just don’t fit together.
It may intend to be perceived as Rain Man Meets Jason Bourne, but it handles neither the affliction nor the action with the kind of command or conviction on display in those far superior films.
So we’ll hire a hit man for 2 stars out of 4. The Accountant, ironically enough, just doesn’t add up.