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Balancing The Books His Way: The Accountant

Updated on October 30, 2016

As a boy, Christian Wolff was told by his father that people were not going to pity him simply because he had problems with socialization. Throughout his life, Christian has had few friends, but he stays loyal to those who matter to him. In The Accountant, Christian (Ben Affleck) quietly and efficiently runs his firm in a small Chicago suburb. People who come to Christian not because he's a nice guy; they know he will give them the best advice for their money, and do so discretely. He learned this trade from Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor), who did accounting for all sorts of clients himself. Christian also handles the books for people all over the world, both good and bad. His closest adviser is a woman using an automated voice. She thinks Christian should look into the books of Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), the owner of a successful robotics company as a break from some of his more notorious clients. Lamar's accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), has discovered some irregularities, and Christian quickly comfirms the suspicions Dana had about the books. Even though Christian hasn't finished the job, Lamar pays him and thanks him for his efforts.

Meanwhile, people close to Lamar suddenly die, including his business partner and his sister Rita (Jean Smart), who hired Christian to look at the books. Christian, who also is skilled in self-defense and weaponry, finds himself pursued, and intervenes as a group of men try to kill Dana. The men he dispatches work for Braxton (Jon Bernthal), a man who fancies himself as an economic crusader of sorts, and leads a militia paid to help him mete out his brand of justice. Even though Christian gets Dana to safety, Treasury crime director Ray King (J. K. Simmons) has also pursued Christian over a separate incident for ten years, but has been unable to put a face or a name to the accountant. He coerces Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to look at surveillance footage of the incident, she finally finds a way to tie Christian to the incident, which left nine members of a New York crime family dead. Christian, though, prepares for any eventuality.

The best way I can describe The Accountant is as a financial noir. Dana is one of the few truly good characters in this movie. Christian has a code of loyalty, but he also lives with Asperger's Syndrome, leaving him unable to connect to the world as most people would. His father refused to allow a specialist to treat the boy, which led to the mother leaving her husband, Christian, and Christian's brother. The father constantly reiterated the world wasn't going to feel sorry for the boys, and that message stuck with them. Screenwriter Bill Dubuque, whose credits include the lackluster drama The Judge, tries to bring some element of surprise to this story, but some elements about the characters probably would not happen in the real world. Also, I could guess what was coming long before director Gavin O'Connor, perhaps best known for the hockey movie Miracle, revealed it. The movie does have solid action sequences, and characters in Christian and Dana who made me care about them.

Affleck delivers a fine performance as the virtually expressionless Christian. His condition makes him sound blunt and uncaring, but people who know and understand him accept that. He is an avid puzzle solver who leads a simple and structured life, which includes a storage locker filled with many of his assets. He is not the Temple Grandin of the accounting world, but Christian was raised in a tough love environment, with the emphasis on tough. He also has some comic moments, such as his rejection of the idea his secretary has for Christian to meet someone. I also enjoyed Kendrick as Dana, who spent weeks doing the research, and first meets Christian after he wakes her up in Lamar's conference room. Dana brings out the decency and loyalty in Christian as she wonders more about him. Simmons and Lithgow stand out among the supporting players as men with hidden agendas.

The Accountant certainly will not play well with people who know or who are autistic, but it is a different sort of action flick. The title character is a man who do anything to make sure his clients make the most of their finances. He also knows how to take care of business in case somebody has a problem with his work. Christian Wolff deals in both the good and the bad of the world, and lives his life in a way where he can blend into both. As long as people accept the way Christian does his accounting, he will give his customers his very best efforts.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Accountant three stars. Follow Christian's bottom line.


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