By Richard von Busack
In between Batman movies, Ben Affleck decided to play Batman again. The Accountant amps up the Aspergery side of our hero, disposing of his cape but not his fantastic fighting abilities. And Bruce Wayne is disguised as a Midwestern bean counter.
Affleck is aliased as “Christian Wolff”—the Christian helps the weak; the wolf punishes the strong, deep thoughts, indeed. “Wolff” describes himself as a person with high-functioning autism, but this isn’t even one of Affleck’s top 10 autistic performances in a movie. He’s never been a big reactor—he’s more like some sort of energy sink that absorbs the acting of others. And he constantly smudges the outline of his character, showing sympathy and affection in between the fight scenes.
Flashbacks show how this super-accountant acquired his skills, from being beaten up by a bulky Asian martial arts instructor to training to become a world-class sniper in the military. In the present tense, he’s hunted by Treasury Department agents, both old dog J.K. Simmons, and his new recruit (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Meanwhile a mysterious bulky enforcer (Jon Bernthal of The Punisher) is tracking down friends of Wolff’s clients.
It’s all connected to some sketchy accounting going on at a robotics firm run by a grandfatherly CEO (John Lithgow). While auditing the books, Christian meets a friendly young pixie named Dana (Anna Kendrick), who is one of the firm’s accountants. Kendrick gives a lot of her usual nervous displays of ivory teeth, while seeking to know this mysterious Wolff, his beautiful mind and his pair of cold shoulders. Despite a few good minutes, Kendrick languishes in the part.
Wolff’s childhood advice from his father was, “Being too different scares people.” The advice seems to have been followed by director Gavin O’Connor. Chunks of the narrative seem to have disappeared, to be replaced by rhetorical questions to bridge the gap: “Risking your life for a girl you’ve known less than a week? Why?” The elder actors help. Simmons dominates his scenes; propping up his feet on a coffee table and sighing, “I was old 10 years ago,” shows how well he handles the Commissioner Gordon side of the story.