In Gavin O’Connor’s latest film, Ben Affleck plays a character who is both a really good accountant and a really good assassin. How does someone become an expert at these two incongruous professions? He’s autistic, see, and when he was a kid, his military father rejected the lily-ass advice of medical professionals and decided to harness his son’s autism into superpowers. He’s great at math! But he can also put a bullet through the back of a man’s skull from a mile away. Take that, hippies!
As a grown up, the Accountant frequently changes his name and moves around the globe to avoid the detection of authorities, because he works with powerful — but shady — figures, and because he also murders people. He keeps all of his belongings — guns, millions of dollars, Jackson Pollock paintings — in an Airstream, so he can pack up and leave in 12 minutes. I mention this mostly because the optics of Ben Affleck driving a Ford F150 pulling an Airstream is cackle-worthy.
In The Accountant, our hero is hired to uncook the books for a multibillion dollar prosthetics company operated by an evil John Lithgow character after the in-house accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), finds some discrepancies. The Accountant manages to figure it all out in a 5-to-10 minute montage using sharpies, a whiteboard, and the office windows (I nodded off briefly and woke up to find that the never-ending montage was still going). The discovery he makes gets him and Cummings put on a hit list. Another assassin played by Jon Bernthal is hired to kill them.
Meanwhile, a treasury agent, Ray Fox (J.K. Simmons), hires a rookie agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and gives her the sole task of tracking down the Accountant, because Fox has some pressing questions he wants to ask him about all the killings and the math. The rookie agent manages to zero in on him based on the fact that his aliases are all mathematicians, and the two storylines eventually converge in a pile of bodies, accounting slips, and general mayhem.
Is it a good movie? Oh god no! That’s a dumb question. It’s about an autistic accountant who is also an assassin. Of course it’s not a good movie. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It’s a little like John Wick, if John Wick were autistic and really good at math and if the number of face shots were significantly reduced (a pity, really). Affleck is laughably bad here, playing a stone-cold killer who will save someone’s life, but he won’t give them a hug. He’s also smitten with Kendrick’s character, which is creepy, not because of their real-life age difference (Affleck is 44; Kendrick is 31), but because of the illusion of their age difference (Kendrick can still play college students). It’s an incongruous pair, made moreso by the fact that Affleck barely speaks and when he does, he’s wooden and affectless (or Affleckless, if you will).
It’s a preposterous movie, but in a Renny Harlin meets John Grisham kind of way. It’s like a peanut-butter, jelly and pickle sandwich. It sounds gross, and it is gross, but it’s also weirdly tasty, especially when eaten while shooting someone in the face from close range. In other words, it’s solid, throwback escapist material, and in this toxic political climate, a guy who can find you a home-office deduction and murder a man with an air-assault rifle hits just the right spot.