It’s Batman vs. the Punisher!
Well, not really, but THE ACCOUNTANT (2016), the new thriller starring Ben Affleck as a math savant who uncooks the books for some of the most dangerous criminals and terrorists in the world, does pit Affleck—Batman in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)— against Jon Bernthal, who plays The Punisher on Marvel’s DAREDEVIL TV show.
In THE ACCOUNTANT, Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an accountant with a penchant for working with menacing clients. As such, he has attracted the attention of Treasury Department head Ray King (J. K. Simmons) who handpicks agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to track down and learn the identity of this mysterious accountant. With the feds on his tail, Wolff decides to lay low and work next for a legitimate client.
Wolff is hired by a robotics company run by the philanthropic Lamar Black (John Lithgow) where their young accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy on their books. It doesn’t take Wolff long to uncover the root of the problem, and when he does, he finds out that this “legitimate” job is just as dangerous as the shadier ones.
And not only are the feds on Wolff’s trail, but there’s also a mysterious enforcer (Jon Bernthal) closing in on him.
I liked THE ACCOUNTANT a lot, and it’s one of those movies where the less said about the plot, the better. Not that it’s full of surprises, but it does tell an intricate story with enough twists and turns to keep its audience off balance yet satisfied.
There are a lot of things about this one I liked. I particularly enjoyed its take on autism. Wolff has autism, and it’s not shown here to be a disability but simply a different ability, which is consistent with contemporary thinking on this condition.
Now, young Wolff learns his fighting skills at a young age from his hard-driving military father (Robert C. Treveiler) who refused to put his son in a special school and instead taught and trained him by himself, with the mindset that he had to make his son face his fears and toughen him up. I found these flashback scenes particularly frustrating because the father’s ideas for helping his son are questionable at best, but these scenes work because they explain how Wolff became such an effective killer.
That’s right. There’s a reason why he has survived all these years working for dangerous clients. Wolff is rather dangerous himself. He’s quite the assassin and could give Jason Bourne a run for his money. Actually, there was something about the early training scenes here that reminded me of Marvel’s DAREDEVIL. In DAREDEVIL, Matt Murdoch learns how to be a superhero in spite of his being blind. Here, Wolff becomes super hero-like in spite of his autism.
Again, I really liked the way the film approached autism, not viewing it as a disability but as something that simply makes people who have it different, but no less complete than those of us without it.
THE ACCOUNTANT also boasts a very strong cast. I really enjoyed Ben Affleck here, much more than his recent portrayal of Batman. Of course, he’s working with a better script here. The screenplay by Bill Dubuque tells a compelling story, creates likable characters, and contains lively dialogue.
But back to Affleck. He really captures what it’s like to be a man like Christian Wolff. He gets inside Wolff’s head, and he lets us know what he is thinking, which is impressive, because the rest of the cast is confused by his autistic personality. Affleck nails the autism part, and we see him struggling to be sociable, as we know he wants to be, but it just doesn’t come easily for him. When he makes a comment that is misunderstood at one point, he quickly quips “it was a joke,” and we know immediately that the line is simply a cover-up to mask his embarrasment.
Affleck also is completely believable as the math savant, as well as making for a cool unruffled assassin. The scenes where we see Wolff in action are among the best in the movie. I’ve really been enjoying Ben Affleck in recent years, in films like GONE GIRL (2014), RUNNER, RUNNER (2013), ARGO (2012), and THE TOWN (2010). Heck, even though I did not like BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) at all, I thought he was pretty good as Batman. For me, I first became an Affleck fan after seeing him portray George Reeves in HOLLYWOODLAND (2006). His performance here in THE ACCOUNTANT might be his best since ARGO.
And Affleck is supported by a fine supporting class. J.K. Simmons is solid at Treasury Chief Ray King, and I enjoyed Anna Kendrick as accountant Dana Cummings. I particularly enjoyed her scenes with Affleck, thought they shared some chemistry, and I wish she had been in the movie more.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson was okay as Treasury Agent Marybeth Medina, as was John Lithgow as company owner Lamar Black.
Jeffrey Tambor makes his mark as Francis Silverberg, a man Wolff meets in prison and who is instrumental in helping Wolff get started in his new “career.” And as shadowy hitman/enforcer Brax, Jon Bernthal is once again very good. I seem to enjoy Bernthal now in nearly everything he does, and so it was fun to see him here as the man who’s tracking down Wolff from the other side of the law. Granted, I enjoyed Bernthal more as the Punisher on DAREDEVIL, and I’m looking forward to his own PUNISHER TV show, but still, he’s enjoyable here in THE ACCOUNTANT.
And I thought Robert C. Treveiler was particularly effective as Wolff’s hardnosed military father. I wanted to hate the guy, but there was something redeemable about him, the way he saw things through. I didn’t agree with what he was doing with his sons, but at least he was there for them.
I thought director Gavin O’Connor did a fine job. I liked the way he told the story. It was clear that opening scene was holding back information, and I liked the way the film went back to that scene later to fill in some plot points. I enjoyed the action scenes here, especially the scene where Wolff comes to the aid of two of his clients, an elderly couple, when some unsavory characters show up at their farm.
I also thought the ending was handled well.
THE ACCOUNTANT drew me in early and kept me there, with well-written characters, an interesting plot, solid peformances all around, and some decent excitement.
It all adds up to one very entertaining movie.