"slick series of fights scenes and maths sums that is preaching differences through a series of formulaic tropes"
I'm having a moment of deja-vu. Ben Affleck is playing an affluent, afflectless, misunderstood, semi-invincible, social justice warrior with a dead parent. He's haunted by a series of flashbacks, has a British aide (albeit only on the phone) and even an ersatz cave. It may be a humble storage container housing what we Brits would call a caravan, but as it has enough weaponry to slay an army that's a moot point.
Hollywood doesn't always know what to do with disability. It either predominantly asks an able-bodied actor to turn out a fairly genuine interpretation of the disability (often proving to be Oscar fodder) or it turns the disability into a preternatural skill bordering a superpower.
The Accountant falls into the latter category. Director Gavin O'Connor has endeavoured to make The Accountant different from your average action flick or mathematical thriller through autism. Ostensibly this is to make a deliberate point about widening people's perceptions. Conveniently it's also a novel twist on well worn tropes. Whatever the reason the result is an odd mixture of fantasy and familiarity.
We all know the routine for an action film, but The Accountant is as much the apotheosis of a autistic person's life as Superman is to a journalist's. I can hear my cousin's comments in my head as I watch it. She's a single mum to an autistic teenage boy and like any average teenager he's yet to hack into the Pentagon or clean up at a casino. We can add 'be a militant maths man' to that list now.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) displays many ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) symptoms with sympathy and accuracy. For that The Accountant scores points. He also shoots people in the head. And when he's finished using his Sharpie for maths problems he resourcefully kills people using that too. The first half of The Accountant sets up many plot lines.
It opens with a grainy and gritty historical mob killing before shifting to a bucolic home for neurologically-impaired kids in the 1980s where a benevolent doctor who doesn't like labels is explaining to a distraught mum and dad that their son needs a sensory-friendly environment. As dad (Robert C. Treveiler) is a non-compromising army man, he retorts, in a 'no son of mine' tone, that 'life is not sensory-friendly'. Not only does this mean his son is never going to go into an institution, he's going to go to Jakarta instead to train in martial arts in a manner that would have Bruce Lee asking for a time out.
Before we learn all of this however we meet avuncular, but sneaky Ray King (J.K. Simmons) at the Department of The Treasury. King is blackmailing analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into researching Wolff. Wolff has been doing the accounts for some of the most dangerous criminals on the planet and King gives Medina a month to find out who he is or her past goes public. This prompts the helpful British female voice at the end of the phone to advise Wolff to get a legitimate job for a while so she sends him to a company called Living Robotics, headed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow). Obviously this turns out to be one of the least safe of the lot. [Yes, there is a lot going on. And you can add a few more flashbacks to this too].
Dana Cummings, (Anna Kendrick) is the junior at Living Robotics who has discovered the irregularity in the company books and after a night of scrawling Sharpies over plate-glass Wolff works out what that irregularity is. This is bad. Wolff and Cummings become targets of hitmen and car chases, shoot-outs, explosions and all sorts of choreographed violence rapidly ensue.
This bit does tick all the action flick boxes. It's energising and entertaining, but it's also not refreshing or original. At the denouement the plot lines are woven together and there are a few twists. One twist was unexpected, another felt like we had collided with a theme from a talk show in the middle of a shoot out. The moments when something original and genuine could have been injected into the action were often under used.
There was a gentle chemistry between Wolff and Cummings that wasn't fully explored and in doing so it did make me wonder what The Accountant was saying. I hope that it's that social justice warriors have trouble getting girlfriends rather than autistic people. If there is a sequel (and the ending does suggest there will be) I would hope that this relationship could be revisited as it has the potential to offer some charming offbeat comedy whilst supplying an actual real point of difference. Without it The Accountant at the moment is a slick series of fights scenes and maths sums that is preaching differences through a series of formulaic tropes.