Something I find incredibly frustrating is when a film takes on an outlandish concept and is so serious with it, it seems disconnected from the absurdity of what it’s presenting. The Accountant, about a brilliant accountant who’s also ridiculously well-trained as a killer, is a film with such a premise. It’s a relief, then, to find that The Accountant has enough of a sense of self-awareness to allow for some levity, which ends up making nearly everything else in the film work. Nearly.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an accountant in a small town, working out of a strip-mall office and taking on farmers as clients. Wolff is also the man who crime lords and rulers reach out to when they need someone to review their vast fortunes for discrepancies. Wolff’s work over the years has attracted the attention of Fed director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons), who blackmails underling Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into tracking Wolff down. To try and avoid detection, Wolff agrees to take on a legitimate client, ultimately settling on a robotics firm headed by entrepreneur Lamar Black (John Lithgow), only to find himself and those around him in the crosshairs of a mysterious hired assassin (Jon Bernthal).
The full plot of The Accountant is far more complex than that brief description lets on, but also key to the film are two side narratives: a slew of flashbacks to show how Wolff became who he is, and a developing friendship with Dana (Anna Kendrick), an employee of Black’s. It borders on convoluted, but to its credit, it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in the story.
Affleck in particular manages to create a character who is tricky to pull off. Wolff is clearly somewhere on the autistic spectrum, though the film doesn’t verbalize this until deep into the runtime. Fortunately, the film and Affleck don’t overplay these aspects of Wolff, which keeps Wolff watchable without feeling exploitative. It helps that he’s surrounded by a really strong supporting cast, with Kendrick doing the heaviest lifting as someone trying to get to know Wolff in a way few have attempted in the past.
The Accountant shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. In fact, director Gavin O’Connor keeps things moving at a brisk pace, which lessens the likelihood of audiences stopping to question some of the weaker parts of the film (an info dump late in the film manages to slow things down considerably, and nearly ruins the enjoyability of the film). Ultimately, though, it does work, creating a rare original project for adults that’s engaging and fun.