An early, key flashback in The Accountant shows future-Ben-Affleck Christian Wolff flailing, in search of a missing puzzle piece while his parents and younger brother struggle with a therapist’s explanations of autism. The feverish temper is settled when a girl reaches down to the dropped piece, plucks it up and hands it to the boy. This is Gavin O’Connor’s film in a single scene: a psychodrama more concerned with shuffling its players, mechanically, into blank “aha” moments than any situational tension. As an adult, Christian is a CPA, occasionally working for drug cartels in exchange for original paintings and rare comic books he can sell on the black market, becoming a mythical figure in the money laundering scene. He stabilizes his life through sensory therapy and target shooting melons with a Barrett M82A1M. More flashbacks reveal his military dad had him trained in Pencak Silat and set loose on bullies.
Christian’s life gets upended when a routine auditing job unveils an embezzlement scheme, and a hit is put on him and another accountant/budding love interest (Anna Kendrick). It’s here The Accountant attempts to maneuver into John Wick territory, Christian responding to this intrusion with neck-breaking brawls and cranium-ventilating gun violence. Affleck, all lean musculature and business, plays Christian as perpetually drab and clueless in social context–attempts at conversation, and later flirtation, with Kendrick’s Dana play on his inability to read cues, coming across as either glib dismissals or awkward contrarianism. Spurred into action, and his eyes cloud over; everything but the task at hand (protect Dana, headshot some motherfuckers) is a nonissue. Bodies become like numbers.
This missile approach suggests a film heading towards a collision course, even proposing two: a U.S. Treasury analyst (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) blackmailed into tracking down the elusive Christian and a hitman with a personal connection to him (Jon Bernthal). In these three, intersecting plots, The Accountant brims with the possibility of warring motivations drawing towards climactic brutality–something O’Connor showed a knack for in his MMA film Warrior. Here, no such luck. Every flashback-inspiring clue or mook encounter is grist for little more than exposition, Christian’s childhood and criminal past treated as a diced-up superhero origin instead of signposts for a pileup. Twists and revelations disperse tension right when it should be ratcheting up, audiences soothed by the puzzle pieces finally put together.