First Hit: I walked away liking this film because it drew me into the dramatic story while also being out-loud funny during the interchanges between Christian and Dana.
A young Christian Wolff (Seth Lee) is shown as a highly functional autistic young boy. His wizardry is displayed by completing a complex puzzle upside down. His parents, Chris and his brother Brax (played by Jake Presley as the boy and Jon Bernthal as an adult) are visiting the Harbor Neuroscience Institute home to find out how to help their son survive in the world. Although they are offered help, the father thinks there are other ways to “fix” his son. Throughout this film we are treated to some of those ways, which gives us the back story as to why Christian and Brax are so relentlessly good at using guns and martial arts. What didn’t make sense to me was how these brothers got separated later in life.
To make a living, the adult Christian (Ben Affleck) is an accountant with extraordinary skills to help clients resolve any type of financial issue. Because of his condition, he is relentless at completing the job and is incredibly efficient. We see him help a farmer husband and wife team as well as seeing pictures where he’s working with the mob, other criminals, and foreign entities.
When called on a new case by “The Voice” (a phone voice only with a smiley face in the phone's interface), he's asked to discover where the missing money is for Living Robotics, a company headed by CEO Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow). After arriving at company headquarters, he sits down to meet with the CFO and CEO for an interview. The interview is amusing, but the audience sees why he gets the job. On the first day of work, he’s greeted by Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) who is the company’s accountant that discovered the accounting problem. During the introduction, and almost every interaction past this, the discussion between these two is interesting, funny and engaging. A definite highlight to this film.
When he discovers the problem, and the source reasons behind the diversion of funds, the film changes tenor and it becomes more of an action thriller.
While all this is going on, Ray King (J.K. Simmons) a Director at the Treasury Department, is trying to find out who changed his life before he retires. What he knows is that someone saved his life, and that there are a few brief pictures of a person that seems to know a lot of criminals, helps them with funneling money, but might have a deadly hand as well.
To assist him, King hires Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) by leveraging her past and gives her a month to find this ghost of a person. Yup, you guessed it, it’s The Accountant. This part of the film felt like a side note to highlight a particular aspect of Christian’s background. Additionally, it also provided a level of context of law and authority to Christian’s actions. However I thought it convoluted the story and imagined this film would have worked by leaving this part out, and this isn’t what happened. Regardless, I found many of the scenes very engaging, interesting, and funny.
Affleck is very strong as Christian. The disassociated looks and the matter-a-fact ways of having verbal exchanges worked for me. Because he needed to be both an efficient accountant and ruthless in actions there had to be a line that he walked that didn’t destroy the illusion of either. Lee was perfect - sublime in all ways. Kendrick was her witty, nerdy, inquisitive self, a role she does so well (think Up in the Air). Her exchanges with Affleck were very well done. Simmons was good as the man affected by The Accountant in a good way. Addai-Robinson was very good as the person needing to not be found out by doing her job well. John Lithgow was adequate as the company owner who was concealing secrets. Jon Bernthal was very strong as Affleck’s brother and protector. Jeffrey Tambor (as Francis Silverberg) was outstanding as Affleck’s cell mate who treated him like a son and gave him knowledge, skills and connections allowing him to make a very good living for himself when he left prison. Bill Dubuque wrote an overly complex screenplay, however it did work. Gavin O’Connor did a wonderful job of weaving together the two stories. Many of the scenes were well shot, like when the farmer scoffs that Christian cannot hit a target a mile away, then Christian pulls the trigger.
Overall: Leaving the theater, I realized that this film kept me interested and engaged.