Who knew math could be so much fun? And by fun I mean deadly. And by math I mean magic. Obviously not all children, autistic or otherwise, respond well to military discipline and a colourful training regimen; but Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) isn’t most children, and his father doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out. The end result is something between Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind and Jason Bourne from that breaking news headline you woke up to today. Social awkwardness and bookkeeping meet anti-aircraft bullets and Ben Batman Affleck in the body count drama: The Accountant.
Christian is good with numbers. Almost… too good. He’s hired by a robotics company to double check their books and make sure everything is in order. More to the point, he’s there to make sure that a discrepancy unearthed by one of their payroll accountants, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), was a fluke. Spoiler alert: it’s not. The routine-obsessed Christian gets distracted by the magnificently complicated books and thrilled by the idea that the company is missing a significant chunk of cash. The company is a little less thrilled. Suddenly Christian and Dana uncover something they were never meant to see and have to retreat into hiding with targets on their backs. Luckily, Christian’s shadowy upbringing and unique set of skills are just the tools they need to hide, hunt, and head shot the thugs who pursue them.
The Accountant isn’t actually as actiony as it sounds. Sure Christian can win a knife fight with a belt, but there’s also quite a bit of writing on glass, having lunch outdoors, and being friendly with Farmer Frank and his wife. Such nice people. It’s really not until halfway through that the pocket protectors hit the fan. Christian is a reserved character, showing little emotion and having a generally vague understanding of it in others – meaning he can put bullets in brains as easily as he can nuke a TV dinner. This quiet mathematician with a talent for patterns is also a methodical killer. He doesn’t do it for the money or the bloodlust; he does it because he can’t leave a puzzle unsolved.
His opposite is Dana. She’s little, talkative, emotional, and can swing a toilet lid like Jose Bautista. While she’s only in the film for a little while, she is one means to peeling back Christian’s layers. Before he meets Dana, Christian is cold and methodical. Afterwards, he becomes distant and calculating… but with a pleasant aura that says, “I watch you while you sleep.” It’s endearing. He’s a complex character, but even the simplest bit of conversation helps to soften his numb exterior.
The Accountant doesn’t hand us plot points like a bus schedule – it keeps us in the shadow of mystery for as long as possible. Just like its main character, The Accountant invites us to peel back the layers of the story. Less literally than Memento, The Accountant tells Christian’s story in reverse. We get to know him as a functioning adult, and see what kind of kid he was before he could shoot a melon from 100 yards away; but all the beef in between is scattered into puzzle pieces we eventually have to assemble. Who’s after him? Why? How does he know how to do that? What happened to his family? Who’s that prison friend? Why does he file taxes for terrorists? The answers look like the bottom of a chip bag with all the delicious shards in apocalyptic disorder.
A bit of a ninja, a bit of a number guy, and a bit of that nice neighbour you never talk to, the accountant is a Renaissance man with a hidden trailer full of popular currencies. Every day he sits under a strobe light and splinters his shin bones before waking up in the morning, reading some ledgers, and bounding up the stairs after hired assassins. Not a normal life, maybe, but a functioning one. The Accountant is a dramaction with a few surprise turns and lots left to think about. 8/10.