Even after a twist that really shouldn’t be as surprising as it is, “The Accountant” is a mature, intelligent adult thriller that focuses on characters over cliches. That isn’t a surprise coming from director Gavin O’Connor, who five years ago delivered a great sports drama in “Warrior,” and he has a strong script to work from by Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”). The central premise feels like a gimmick that will fall apart the longer the film goes along, but O’Connor’s focus of the central character, and Ben Affleck’s strong performance, makes it work as we go through until the end.
Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an accountant in Chicago who does everything he can for his clients to get the best results on their tax returns as possible. He’s a bit off in terms of the ways he communicates with others, though; we see flashbacks of him as a child, where his parents are trying to figure out what is going on with him at a neuroscience facility that specializes in people like Christian. Christian, we discover later, is somewhere on the autism spectrum, but he’s specially focused while working, and the doctors want to help him live in society. His mother is open to their assistance, but his military father has other ideas to help him and his brother in the world. As an adult, Christian is good with mathematics and accounting, but we also see he has secrets he carries, as well. Early on, we see a veteran Treasury agent (Ray King, played by J.K. Simmons) bring a younger agent (played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into his office to discuss a case. There’s someone he’s been on the trail of for years, and with him retiring in the coming months, he wants to bring fresh eyes to the case. He shows her pictures of various unsavory people around the world, all with a common thread- the same well-dressed American. It turns out to be Christian, although we aren’t quite sure of the connection he shares with them. When he is brought in to check out some potential “cooking of the books” by a groundbreaking robotics company (run by John Lithgow), we start to get a glimpse further into what he does when, after confirming millions of dollars being sifted from the books, Christian and Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), the accountant at the company who found the discrepancy, are put in the crosshairs by a gun-for-hire (Brax, played by Jon Bernthal).
This is a movie where all of the characters are interesting, and the story they are apart of is smart and grabs a viewer effortlessly. From well-known actors like Simmons, Bernthal, Lithgow, Affleck and Kendrick to a relative new face in Addai-Robinson (from “Arrow”) to small but important roles for Jeffrey Tambor and Jean Smart, O’Connor understands the importance of having familiar faces we can identify with and expect what they are capable of in a role. The primary faces are Affleck, Kendrick, Simmons and Addai-Robinson, and they all do fine work- we are thrown into the middle of this story by how we feel about the actors, and O’Connor uses that to his advantage. The good old days of true ensemble films is alive and well in “The Accountant,” and we are set at ease with the way the film delivers simple, but effective drama and thrills. We don’t seem to get that as much as we’d like from major studio productions, and “The Accountant” delivers the goods if you want to see something for adults that isn’t entirely somber to watch.