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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Accountant



Ben Affleck is The Accountant. Affleck stars as "Christian Wolff," one of many nom de plumes his character adopts, based on the names of history's greatest mathematicians. Now, Affleck is no mere accountant, oh no. He also 1) suffers from a high-functioning form of autism since childhood that renders him socially repressed but one of the most gifted mathematicians on the planet, 2) is a freelance book keeper for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations, and 3) happens to be one of the world's greatest assassins, a regular Jason Bourne with (Good) Will Hunting's head for numbers. Like the taxes Affleck does for a kindly Illinois farm couple who are also his clients, The Accountant's books are quite overcooked.

The Accountant's screenplay by Bill Dubuque seems to have escaped the writer's workshop too soon. Affleck's story alone is a convoluted rigamarole: His ruthless Army Colonel father drove his hapless mother away when he refused to let young Affleck attend a special New Hampshire school to treat his autism. Instead, the Colonel dragged Affleck and his brother around the world 37 times, forcing them to endure brutal schooling in the martial arts and egging them on to have street brawls with their Parisian school chums. As an adult, Affleck received expert tutelage in criminal accounting by George Bluth himself, Jeffrey Tambor, his callow prison roommate. 

Affleck then went to work for a mysterious British lady who instructs him over the phone, as if he were her only Charlie's Angel. Affleck cooks the books for international crime lords when he isn't also killing people or posing as an actual CPA in the suburbs of Chicago. And that's all before he starts doing the accounting for a robotics corporation owned by John Lithgow. Affleck is there to investigate missing millions of dollars found by a junior level accountant played by Anna Kendrick. Of course, Affleck falls for Kendrick, the only math nerd who can understand his extreme math nerdiness. Kendrick is an out of place distraction in The Accountant, a sore thumb when counting with our fingers. And doubly of course, Affleck ends up in the middle of a murder plot where killers lead by Jon Bernthal start offing Lithgow's partners, placing him directly at gruesome odds with this gang of murderous thugs.

If that all that weren't enough, Affleck is being investigated by the United States Treasury run by J.K. Simmons, who recruits Cynthia Addai-Robinson, a former criminal who lied about her past to become an analyst in the treasury. Together, they track down this mysterious Accountant, before Simmons suddenly launches into a complicated third act exposition monologue revealing his entire career was linked to Affleck, they met in the past, and Affleck's British lady boss not only has Simmons in her thrall, but now Addai-Robinson as well. And all that's before the question of whatever happened to young Affleck's brother is answered with the bloody obvious reveal that Bernthal is Affleck's brother all grown up. Director Gavin O'Connor, who helmed the superior MMA brothers-up-in-arms smash Warrior, again goes to the well of two brothers slugging it out before admitting they love each other. The only thing The Accountant didn't account for was why Affleck rubbed and beat his shin bones with a pole whenever he's upset.

It turns out the biggest accounting job in The Accountant is keeping track of all of the DC, Marvel, and other nerdy comics references and casting choices. Let's show our work: Obviously, Affleck is currently Batman. His brother Bernthal is Marvel and Netflix's The Punisher. (As Affleck was also once Daredevil, Bernthal has now fought two Daredevils in the movies and on Netflix.) Simmons is the new Commissioner Gordon opposite Affleck's Batman. Addai-Robinson played Amanda Waller, leader of the Suicide Squad on The CW's Arrow. Amusingly, Affleck, who, again, is Batman, makes a point of packing a vintage copy of Action Comics #1 when he plots to escape with Kendrick. Affleck also quotes the words "statistically speaking," which is a famous line ("Statistically speaking, flying is still the safest way to travel") spoken by two Supermen, Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh. Bernthal calmed Affleck down as a boy by reciting the rhyme "Solomon Grundy," which is also DC Comics super villain. Affleck and Bernthal's mother isn't named Martha, but Martha does appear at the very end at the autism center in the form of Alison Wright, who played Martha in The Americans. For most of the movie, Affleck does his best impression of stoic Mr. Spock from Star Trek, with the rare giggling like a giddy school boy while showing off his math for Kendrick. The Accountant works overtime crunching numbers but all those numbers just don't add up.