A seemingly mild-mannered accountant is, in his spare time, a cold-blooded killer. The plot of The Accountant, a new thriller starring Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick, offers some suspenseful scenes but never gets past its highly preposterous premise.
The film starts with a character, who later goes by the name Christian Wolff, as a child. He is diagnosed with autism and his mother wants to put him in a specialized institution, but his military father believes in tough love. The father wins and raises the autistic child and his brother to be able to defend themselves so they can live in the real world.
As an adult, Christian Wolff is play by Ben Affleck. Wolff is keeping a low profile at a small one-person rural accounting office in a strip mall. But we know this is a front. The Treasury Department has linked him to money laundering for several international criminals and nefarious characters. The film offers a love story of sorts, as Wolff realizes that an awkward young woman, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), is in danger because she knows about some illegal financial dealings at a high-tech company he has been auditing.
Affleck does a good job of portraying someone with autism, but this makes it difficult to for the audience connect with him. His character is closed off by definition. Wolff has a few things he does for relaxation such as shooting at melons with a high-powered sniper rifle. He also has his routines, such as sitting in a room with loud music and flashing lights for a precise amount of time, while he hits himself. Lots of things have to be very precise. Even in the love story, he remains aloof as he tries to help Dana but offers very little emotion.
The Treasury Department doesn’t even know Wolff’s name. All they have is a series of photos, but none even show his face. Reliable character actor and Oscar winner J. K. Simmons plays Raymond King, the director of financial crimes for the department. He strong-arms a young analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into identifying him and tracking him down. They come off as somewhat bumbling, not exactly on top of the game.
The film devolves into an unlikely but escalating series of chases, escapes, fights and shootings. Even if one can accept that Wolff is one-man army, the plot just goes too far into fantasy. Wolff winds up eluding the Treasury Department and battling a pseudo-military security force, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake while at the same time doing accounts for a troubled local farmer and of course trying to save the girl.
Aside from the well-staged violent scenes, there is nothing compelling about the film. The lead actors do adequate jobs, but two socially awkward accountants don’t make for a must-see thriller. Several character actors have supporting roles, notably Jeffrey Tambor of Arrested Development in a serious part. Veteran actor John Lithgow, who has won a long list of acting awards including an Emmy for Dexter, has a somewhat small role as the head of a robotics company. Tambor in particular does good work, but not enough the push this contrived mess over the top. Lithgow is a bit disappointing, not bringing anything special to a role anyone could have done.