Next year will see the twentieth anniversary of the release of the film Good Will Hunting. Two decades ago, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon picked up Academy Awards for their screenplay about an undiscovered math savant with a penchant for frenzied algebraic formula scribbling. All these years on and both have achieved and – more impressively – maintained Hollywood A-Lister status. Damon can put some of that success down to the Bourne franchise. Affleck, meanwhile, keeps his star up now as the ultimate movie superhero, Batman. His latest break from Gotham City sees him taking on a role that’s (and bear with us on this one, okay?) part Dark Knight and part Will Hunting.
In Warrior director Gavin O’Connor’s latest outing, The Accountant, the 44-year-old plays the titular number cruncher; a mild-mannered, but successful bookkeeper. A man with more to him than meets the eye. Under the quiet accountant veneer there’s a quite brilliant mind. You see, Christian Wolff is an autistic mathematics genius. Oh, and a money launderer who works freelance for the Mafia, Juarez drug cartels and a whole bunch of other shady organisations. And underneath that? He’s a double-hard close combat and weapons expert. Got all that? Good.
Sound a little contrived, unlikely and messy? Well, it kind of is. This film is ambitious, certainly. And not a little daft. It’s also oddly-paced and ever so slightly contrived. But more than all of those things, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. After all, what’s not to like about a socially-awkward, gun-toting book-cooker that files tax returns and then beats up bad guys before shooting them in the back of the head, eh?
Now, then: to the somewhat convoluted plot. Wolff decides to take on a slightly less dangerous client in the shape of John Lithgow’s robotic prosthetics firm who are looking into a huge financial discrepancy on their balance sheets. Aided by finance clerk Anna Kendrick, we see Wolff’s awkwardness in full swing as he develops a bit of a crush he doesn’t really know how to act on. The number whizz solves the accountancy issue in double quick time, but finds himself drawn into a deadly battle – as you often do in the murky world of corporate accountancy – with a murderous private security firm headed up by the always fun Jon Bernthal. He needs to save himself, save the girl and solve the mystery of what’s really going on.
Affleck’s character gets fleshed out and explained in a series of slightly jarring flashbacks which hint at childhood trauma and a rough upbringing by an autism-denying US military dad, one who – rather disturbingly – ‘works in Psy Ops’. This ‘origins’ back story adds even more to the superhero feel of his character and his autism is suggested as being a superpower on more than one occasion. The message about the disability is positive in the film, if a little clumsily handled and lacking in a little subtlety.
Affleck barely emotes once throughout, but that’s not a critique of his acting – that’s the role he’s playing. His hulking stoicism reminds us more than once that he’s the new Bruce Wayne. Albeit looking here a little more like Clark Kent with his enormous pecs and abs stuffed inside cheap work shirts and his glasses (and yup – just like Superman he loses the specs when going badass…).
The Accountant doesn’t add up entirely, but it’s much more profit than loss. With Affleck, Kendrick, Lithgow, Bernthal and JK Simmons (as the Treasury agent hot on Wolff’s tail), the film has plenty of assets, but let’s not give it too much credit. It’s a fun watch with some nice, quirky ideas, but it’s not going to trouble the Academy come March. That said, if you’re planning a trip to the cinema this week, go see it. It’s a decent return on investment.
Have you seen The Accountant? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!