[Screen It]


(2016) (Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick) (R)

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Action/Drama: After being hired to discover financial discrepancies before a robotics company goes public, an accountant with Asperger's Syndrome uses his decades of fight and weapons training to deal with various bad guys who show up and are involved in the case.
Christian Wolff (BEN AFFLECK) is an accountant who's brilliant with numbers and finding hard to discover financial anomalies, with part of his dogged determination to solve problems stemming from him having Asperger's Syndrome. A daily routine helps him keep its symptoms in check, something he developed himself or perhaps stems from his military father's years of pushing him and his younger brother through intense fight and weapons training in order for them to survive and thrive in the world.

Christian's financial skills have resulted in various criminal enterprises hiring him to do their books, and that and a trail of bodies has Director Ray King (J.K. SIMMONS) of the Treasury Department determined to find and capture him, despite not knowing who he is. He's tasked young Treasury Dept. analyst Marybeth Medina (CYNTHIA ADDAI-ROBINSON) to figure that out. At the same time, Christian has been hired by Lamar Black (JOHN LITHGOW), the CEO of a robotics company who's planning on taking his company public.

But one his company's young financial analysts, Dana Cummings (ANNA KENDRICK), has uncovered some discrepancies, so Christian has been called in to solve that matter. But as he digs deeper and various wrongdoings are discovered, a hitman, Brax (JON BERNTHAL), starts taking out those who could ruin the company's IPO, all of which puts him and his armed men in direct conflict with Christian and his special set of skills.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
There are plenty of professions where you can easily see those who ply their sort of trade pressed into service as an action hero if the situation required that. Beyond the obvious examples of military personnel and police officers, professional athletes are a likely choice. But pretty much anyone who engages in hard labor -- such as construction workers and the like -- and use their bodies to make a living would be a good choice due to already being strong and active.

That's compared to anyone who has a more sedentary lifestyle of working behind a desk from 9 to 5 (or longer) and thus probably wouldn't be the first choice to save the day should some crisis break out. That clearly explains why Superman's alter ego is a nerdy and bumbling reporter. And that's why the sight of Ben Affleck playing an account who, much like Batman, moonlights as a vigilante of sorts in the trailer for "The Accountant" clearly seems incongruous.

Of course, most anyone who's ever seen a movie will likely assume the accounting part of his character's life is a front, and in this case, that's partially true. But this film from writer Bill Dubuque and director Gavin O'Connor turns out to be far more than that or what initially meets the eye. After an introductory action scene that depicts a trail of bodies and an unidentifiable person slowly approaching and working their way through the mayhem -- a scene that's explained in greater detail later on -- we see Seth Lee portraying Affleck's character as a boy in 1989 where his Asperger's Syndrome characteristics have confounded and frustrated his parents.

In flashback scenes that are scattered throughout the film's nearly 130-minute runtime, we then see what turned that boy into the highly trained accountant who's good with numbers and has managed to figure out a routine that helps him cope with and keep his condition mostly in check. Not to mention an explanation of his lifestyle where the accounting pen isn't necessarily mightier than the sword, or in this case, a bevy of hardcore weaponry or the use of a swift blow to the body.

The main part of the story involves the title character being hired to figure out some financial irregularities at a robotics firm run by a CEO played by John Lithgow. Affleck's Christian doesn't need any help from the young employee (Anna Kendrick) who initially discovered the accounting issue, but the two end up forming an unusual relationship that provides some comic relief, and a bit of heart, from the heavy and quite intense action moments.

But when Christian uncovers more than the firm anticipated, that results in some ex-military type assassins (led by the lead baddie played by Jon Bernthal) arriving on the scene. All of which means the accountant must jump into action and then some to save the young woman. At the same time, a Treasury Department director (J.K. Simmons) has tasked a young analyst with a questionable past (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to locate and figure out who this accountant is, using her past and unreported juvie record to leverage her into position.

All of which leads to an action flick with more depth and heart than one might initially expect, and all involved pull this off with aplomb. Affleck is terrific in a part that's obviously fairly complex not to mention tricky to play and may be the first such portrayal (an action hero with Asperger's Syndrome) that I'm aware of in a mainstream studio film. I could watch Kendrick in just about anything she appears in (and her chemistry with Affleck is spot on and makes the film that much more engaging), which also holds true for Simmons. Bernthal plays a worthy villain, and it's always nice to see Lithgow up on the screen.

O'Connor nicely balances the exciting and expertly choreographed action scenes with the quieter moments of humanity, and the flashback scenes -- that sometimes run the risk of being overused or clunky if they end up in the wrong or inexperienced hands -- work quite well to explain character actions and motivations. Overall, I found the offering far better and more engaging than I was anticipating, with solid work from all involved making this an unusual entry in the canon of Hollywood action flicks. And one that might make you view the person who does your taxes and financial work in a different light. "The Accountant" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed October 11, 2016 / Posted October 14, 2016

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