While we’ve never been sold on Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman, his latest performance as Christian Wolff in The Accountant is a wonderful case of casting. One doesn’t typically think of pen-pushing accountants as being the most effective (or exciting) of roles for a top crime world agent, but the script by Bill Dubuque under the direction of Gavin O’Connor has a protagonist that’s surprisingly interesting.
Courtesy of a flashback sequence, we find out that Wolff was diagnosed as a child as having a profound but high-functioning form of autism. He’s skilled enough as a child to rapidly complete a jigsaw puzzle (with the image facing down, so he’s working with an all grey image). He’s presented to be socially awkward and extremely sensitive to outside stimulation. He will sit alone at night with sleeping meds while listening to blaring metal music in order to try to clear his mind. With a Rain Man level of super-skills of observation, pattern awareness, and mathematics, he also can’t tell when anyone is making jokes.
He’s also a Jason Bourne style strike-agent, getting occasional calls from a handler who gives him job instructions. He’s been working for years for crime syndicates all around the world, fixing their books and handling their accounts. The government has been after Wolff, but they don’t know who he is, since he seems to always know where the surveillance cameras are. As the flashbacks continue, we discover that Wolff’s father insists that he gets progressively tougher; soon he’s getting martial arts training from secret forces types that would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. The end effect is that adult Wolff can kick bad-guys ass in hand to hand just as readily as he can hit a target a mile away with a sniper rifle or as he can balance a corporate checkbook.
It’s a strange and fascinating enough character, but even as all the pieces fall into place for the characters and we’re fully engaged with them, the main action of the story – a seemingly legitimate corporate gig winding up to be no surprise as something sinister – winds up being a bit too over the top. The characters far overpower the limited caper that’s the story. I hope that they wind up doing another film with Wolff, as he’s at least as interesting as Jason Bourne and far more than his own Batman.
No, it’s not a great film, or a great caper, but Afflecks performance is well worth the price of admission by itself.
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