When Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) was a boy he was diagnosed with autism, which had been obvious to his parents, a U.S. military man and his wife who travel around thanks to his job. They decide he cannot stay with the doctor who diagnosed him and runs a special school for such kids, so his father (Robert C. Treveiler) opts to train his boy, and his brother, himself in a way that means they will be toughened up and never be picked on, in their younger years or when they grow up. This means Christian has used his talent for numbers, emphasised by his condition, to become an excellent accountant who works out the best deals for his clients. But where some of those he assists are ordinary folks, others can be far more dangerous...
At this point in the action movie genre, the question had to be asked, how far can you go to shake it up and all its conventions without turning goofy or camp? Some films embraced both of those, occasionally at the same time, but The Accountant wanted to be different but serious, so that while there were instances of humour, mostly director Gavin O'Connor kept things as stony faced as possible, or at least as stony faced as his star managed. This brought about a very odd combination, which could have been a drama about an autistic accountant who gets in over his head and then has to be rescued by a crack assassin, sort of a Rain Man with bullets flying and a buddy movie sensibility.
But it wasn't since in Christian we had a character who was doing all the rescuing himself, deficient in some ways in that he takes everything literally or cannot connect with others emotionally - potential love interest and fellow accountant Anna Kendrick just sits there like a lemon while he performs all these amazing feats without once giving her a kiss, not even a peck on the cheek - but in others akin to a talent for superhuman ability. This revealed the film as one method the action movie could go to, which was try and compete with the then-popular superhero blockbusters all over the multiplexes like a rash, so our hero's mental faculties have inadvertently been fashioned into superhero benefits to him.
The incredible skill with mathematics was one thing (he does that multiplying to big numbers in his head in a second trick we're often told autistics have the power to do), but thanks to his father he has developed a skill with violence as well. We are supposed to accept that Christian could blow someone's head off about half a mile away, granted with a sniper’s rifle, yet also that his hand to hand combat would rival Bruce Lee in its achievements, the theme being that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, so where Christian lost a lot socially, as far as becoming a superperson went he had it all wrapped up. However every hero needs a villain, therefore we were plunged into the murky world of international intrigue that saw high tech corporations literally battle one another for supremacy in their markets.
Well, they paid someone else to do the battling for them, but the principle was the same, only genuine principles were what this lot did not have. Quite frankly the ins and outs of what was going on behind the scenes that the titular Accountant had to sort out were pretty involved, either that or not conveyed with sufficient clarity, which coupled with its grey, grim look made for an experience that was at times hard to get along with. Aside from one aspect, which was seeing a mentally disabled man not simply rising above his drawbacks, but using it to his best advantage, turning a negative in the community's eyes into a positive, and that was enough to justify the film as it was the strongest in those scenes where Affleck, offering a contained and controlled performance that still managed to be quite engaging, demonstrated his particular set of skills. This was not quite enough to stave off the clichés of the genre (why, yes, there was a big fight at the end), but it could be applauded for trying to be original in other ways, even if it ended up rather odd in the results. Music by Mark Isham.