The Accountant November 2, 2016 THE ACCOUNTANT (USA/15A/128mins) Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor THE PLOT: Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a highly intelligent accountant with a reputation for rooting out the most devious instances of creative accounting. He is hired by new client Lamar (John Lithgow) to investigate a potential fraud committed in his company. By uncooking the books, he will reveal the culprit. He receives some unwanted help from perky fellow accountant Dana (Anna Kendrick), but Christian greets her with a frosty reception. He is a maths savant with autism, lacking in social skills and has an ability to be blunt with people most of the time. He also has a particular set of skills, which make him a nightmare for people who double-cross him or do not let him finish his work. On his trail is corporate assassin Brax (Jon Bernthal) and FBI Agent Marybeth (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), who is investigating a series of deaths connected to a mysterious individual known only as The Accountant. THE VERDICT: “Calculate your choices’ is the tagline for ‘The Accountant’. It is an apt description for this tense thriller that belies the initially dull-sounding title to become a very particular character piece, with some unexpected plot twists and an offbeat sense of humour. Having lost his way somewhat with the troubled, under-whelming ‘Jane Got A Gun’, Gavin O’Connor is back on form with ‘The Accountant’. The script, by Bill Dubuque, sat on the famed Hollywood Blacklist for several years until it finally went into production. It is certainly a story that stands out from the crowd and is more intelligent than the usual studio-produced thriller. The strongest point here is Christian – or at least the autistic man we get to know under the name of Christian. O’Connor and Dubuque spend time on some well-placed flashbacks to Christian’s childhood, where he had difficulty fitting in with others and had an inner rage that his military father tapped into. That rage later manifested itself in a deadly, ruthless ability in rubbing out people who challenge him. Christian is definitely a sharpshooter who shoots first and asks questions later. As essayed by Affleck in a concentrated, well-defined performance, Christian is a character to be reckoned with. But it is also through the eyes of other characters that we observe Christian’s behaviour, such as the unflappable Dana – and who better than Kendrick to play her? Christian is not without a sense of humour, even if it is a bit bewildering and hard to swallow at first. O’Connor takes his time with the story, letting it unfold like a peeling onion – one that stings of course. The film is funnier than its ostensibly sombre tone suggests – another plus point. Those expecting a Jason Statham-style film where there is a shoot-out or fight sequence every ten minutes will be disappointed. Those expecting a more measured, clinical dissection of how a killer is both born and made will find much to enjoy in ‘The Accountant’. When the shoot-outs and fight sequences come, they are crunchy, fast and pack a punch. Pretty much like this lean, mean film itself. ‘The Accountant’ is not a calculated risk and is worth your hard-earned dough. RATING: 4/5 Review by Gareth O’Connor emerb “The Accountant” is a stylish, entertaining, comic and edgy action thriller. Written by by Bill Dubuque and directed by Gavin O’Connor, it is expertly cast featuring many skilled performers, including Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow. Despite not being a superhero movie per se, the title character is indeed a high-functioning superhuman but what elevates this film above your usual run of the mill superhero flick, is that his “superpowers” result from his autism. Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a quiet, soft-spoken accountant working in a small office where he helps ordinary people get great tax refunds from the IRS. What makes him particularly impressive is that he is autistic. He almost never smiles and shows little emotion but is extremely honest in doing his work efficiently and quietly. However, his condition poses difficulties with many so-called “normal” activities. It is a huge effort for him to interact socially, his life is regimented and ruled by exactness and he has difficulty expressing emotions. At the same time, though, his condition gives him incredible mathematical and analytical capabilities of which he makes good use. He also has another secret life, where he adopts a series of aliases to launder the books for people with complicated finances, like drug cartels, arms brokers, money launderers, assassins and other shady businessmen. His anti-bullying training as a child gives him strength, flexibility, martial arts, and marksman skills and this makes him a man highly skilled at defending himself against any of these terrorists if necessary. Ray King (J.K. Simmons) is the head of the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division and he is determined to locate Wolff before he retires, even though he doesn’t even know his name nor where to find him. He assigns a smart but reluctant financial analyst (who has a rather checkered past) called Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to figure out the identity of the underworld accountant and track him down. Meanwhile, th accountant is facing other problems too. After being hired by a tech firm CEO (John Lithgow) who fears that one of his employees has been stealing millions from the company, he successfully uncovers serious fraud. It’s not long before he becomes the target of hit man (Jon Bernthal) along with the junior accountant who helped him, Dana (Anna Kendrick). He assigns himself as Dana’s protector and the two form a tentative bond that surprises them both but their relationship never makes it very far due to his poor social skills and the band of assassins hot on their heels. Two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck is always magnetic on screen and this film is no exception. Apparently he spent months researching autism and it has certainly paid off as Christian Wolff is one of his best performances to date. While never a particularly expressive actor, he does great work here as a serious, introverted and wounded man who has learned to toughen himself up by amassing a multitude of impressive skills – number cruncher, martial-arts, shooter and even a collector of fine art! It’s a muted but nonetheless impressive performance. While Wolff has trouble in social situations, he finds he is able interact effectively and sympathetically with Dana, whom he perceives as being an outsider like himself, although she is not autistic. The chemistry between the math-loving pair is credible and Affleck is convincing during their conversations, rarely making eye contact and constantly looking as though he wants to leave. Kendrick shines too and more than holds her own opposite Affleck. Addai-Robinson and J.K. Simmons are impressive too, although perhaps somewhat underused. Jon Bernthal as the villain, a mesmerizingly intelligent and enigmatic killer is chilling and credible. “The Accountant” is a fresh, humorous and gripping story proving that action thrillers can be complex but still entertaining. For a film with multiple character and plot strands, the script ties perfectly together. There are clues dotted throughout and we know there is more going on than meets the eye but we end up with a tidy and satisfactory conclusion. While there are no loose ends, there are still plenty of surprises along the way. This is certainly a violent film. Wolff dispatches the bad guys with complete indifference, as if it’s all part of a day’s work – without excitement nor passion. In fact, he’s so completely desensitized to it all that it’s quite comical to watch. Thankfully though, while the body count is outrageous, “The Accountant” doesn’t glorify the violence. Although The Accountant stands on its own as an engaging thriller, it’s easy to see how it could end up being the first film in a franchise and I can see Accountant number 2 on our screens before too long. I’ll certainly be going to see it!