If you’re looking for thrills and action and suspense, I dare say the first profession you seek might not be accountancy. But clearly that isn’t the case for the character behind The Accountant, Christian Wolff (a role filled by Ben Affleck – Argo, Batman v Superman). He is not only a brilliant number cruncher, but the finest of marksmen – a deadly shot.
Wolff is autistic and he rarely shows emotion. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organisations. With the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), starting to close in, Christian takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company. That is where an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. But as Christian “uncooks” the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise.
To step back though, we first get to know Christian Wolff as a child whose parents are seeking professional help for him. An empathetic therapist offers to work with him, but Christian’s father – a military man – has his own ideas about how to prepare his son for a world that can be harsh for anyone who is deemed “different”. His dad puts Christian and his brother, who doesn’t have autism, through brutal hand-to-hand combat and other forms of rigorous training – training without mercy, if you like.
Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) directs from a screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Judge). The spark for the story came from producer Mark Williams, who heard the term ‘forensic accountant’ and thought it sounded like a detective of some sort. Then he started pushing the envelope, raising the stakes, thinking about who this accountant was working for and that’s when he saw the potential to kick the action into high gear. Once he had the general framework in his head, he took the concept to Bill Dubuque, a writer he’d worked with before and he responded by fleshing out the script.
The set up is strong. The story is intriguing, but in the later stages there were 10 minutes that totally flummoxed me. That was when the character played by JK Simmons tried to explain his back-story. Talk about convoluted! More’s the pity, because I was totally involved to that point.
The idea of characters with autism that are mathematical geniuses is certainly not a new one. Think of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and, more recently, X + Y. Here the intrigue is taken a whole lot further and the premise is more than a little farfetched. Just consider it for a moment – a math savant who is also a deadly assassin. So, suspend belief and just enjoy it as an adrenalin-charged ride, but don’t try to make sense of it all. Rated MA, The Accountant scores a 7 out of 10.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Ben Affleck, Jon Bernthal, J.K. Simmons
Release Date: 3 November 2016
Rating: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television