Ben Affleck is MATH-MAN
The Accountant is dumb. It is so, so dumb, and I won’t try to defend it as anything other than a hella dumb movie. But it’s that special kind of stupid—a movie so ludicrously, delightfully dumb that it comes out the other side fun. Everything about The Accountant is the stupidest sh*t you’ve ever heard, and yet it’s an entertaining action movie. On the Point Break Scale of Dumb/Fun Movies (with “10” being a perfect Point Break), The Accountant is a solid 8, or the equivalent of Johnny Utah drop-kicking a dog.
Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, who has a high-functioning form of autism. He’s a CPA working out of a dinky office in a dinky strip mall in a dinky suburb of Chicago, and his routine is so precise as to suggest a pretty serious case of OCD to boot. When Wolff goes home he listens to deafening heavy metal while sitting in a room lit by a strobe light and strafing his shin with a big stick, a pretty self-flagellating way to deal with sensory input. Then, when he wants to unwind, he goes to a storage unit that houses an Airstream trailer he has stocked with guns and priceless art. So he’s a rigid businessman with a violent alter ego and a cave-like cache of guns. He is…MATH-MAN.
The Accountant is just a superhero movie without the capes and cowls. It’s straight-up schlock with each subplot competing for which is the schlockiest. The absolutely riveting main plot involves Wolff untangling an embezzlement scheme, which is thrilling cinema, watching someone do pretend math by chanting numbers to himself and writing math equations on the glass walls of the conference room—shades of Good Will Hunting. You know Wolff is very good at math because he writes on windows, the universal symbol for “genius which cannot be contained”.
There are two different sets of flashbacks showing how and where Wolff acquired his skills. In the childhood flashbacks his Army officer father decides that sensory and behavioral therapy are a waste of time and that the best way for his son to learn to cope is to hire a string of martial artists to beat the sh*t out of him. And in the prison flashbacks—why Wolff is in prison is never explained—a former mob accountant (Jeffrey Tambor) teaches Wolff how to launder money. This part of the movie is exactly the same if you imagine that Tambor is playing George Bluth, Sr.
The subplot featuring JK Simmons as a soon-to-retire federal agent chasing down the mysterious accountant is even stupider and more mystifying than either of the flashback sets. Instead of just ordering a subordinate (Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Arrow) to investigate the accountant, Director King blackmails her into cooperation. He could literally say, “As your boss, I order you to investigate this guy,” but instead he threatens to destroy her life in order to compel her to do her job. It’s hilariously over the top.
Affleck is fully engaged as Wolff, and he is the perfect person to play a character like this. As an actor, he has a tendency to be stiff and wooden, which works for a character who is always a little uncomfortable and expressionless. And he has zero chemistry with Anna Kendrick, which suits their unconsummated relationship perfectly. (Pity the poor camera operators who had to get six-four Affleck and five-two Kendrick into frame together—they do most of their scenes with one or both of them sitting down.)
But there is no getting around that this is exploitative of people on the spectrum. There’s something kind of nice about how the movie tries to connect Wolff’s autism and his near-superhuman ability, in a “what others think makes you weak is really what makes you strong” way, but the movie is just trashy enough that it can’t shake its exploitation roots. Your mileage may vary on how offensive you find this—the filmmakers’ hearts are in the right place, but “autistic assassin” plays into some very negative stereotypes of the neurodiverse as isolated loners.
By the final showdown, which includes a plot twist you can see coming from a mile away, The Accountant has become a John Wick knock-off, with a virtually indestructible badass remorselessly demolishing dozens of bad guys. The villain is reduced to sitting behind computer monitors—not even hacking anything, literally just sitting!—and there’s even a blatant, franchise-baiting ending tacked on. Math-Man Begins includes an ACCOUNTING MONTAGE and gets progressively stupider as it goes along, which means by the end you’re pressed to hold back howling laughter. (Lainey: so I’m totally going to see it.)