“I like incongruities,” says Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) to fellow number-cruncher Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) in “The Accountant,” and so too does his film, whose abject cartoonishness is wholly out of whack with its air of self-seriousness. The story of an autistic accountant who earns a living as a Robin Hood-ish financial advisor by day and a highly trained lethal assassin by night, Gavin O’Connor’s action saga operates from an absurd premise and yet is so gravely earnest — and so oblivious to its own silliness — that it comes across as a big-budget work of unintentional comedy. Think of it as “Rain Man”/”A Beautiful Mind” by way of “John Wick,” except far more dour and less delirious than that description implies.
Coming on the heels of March’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” it’s also an Affleck vehicle fashioned in a distinctly Batman-ish mold, although detailing the many ways “The Accountant” mirrors the star’s (and director Zack Snyder’s) severe take on the Dark Knight would require divulging more spoilers than is reasonable for a review. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to eventually see the stark parallels between the comic-book icon and Affleck’s Christian. When not helping rural Illinois couples escape economic woes through clever tax preparation, Christian cooks the books of the world’s most notorious crooks, albeit not for evil but, as is quickly apparent, for good. He also owns a secret-lair Airstream trailer in which he houses stockpiles of cash, a cache of high-powered weaponry, original Renoir and Pollack paintings, and comics — including rare first issues of Action Comics (aka Superman) and Detective Comics (aka Batman).
Christian is aided by a mysterious female assistant heard over cell phone (his virtual Alfred), and as is soon revealed, he was trained to kick ass in Jakarta by his father (Robert C. Treveiler), a stern military man who, after his wife abandoned the clan, turned both the uniquely gifted Christian — blessed with amazing intellect but social difficulties — and his brother (Jake Presley) into one-man armies. According to “The Accountant,” autism is a condition that, with the help of a demanding mentor, can be harnessed as a superpower. Thus, despite avoiding eye contact, speaking like an emotionless robot, and using a wooden rod to massage his calf muscles while listening to music at ear-shattering levels (in a room filled with strobe lights!), Christian still resembles a typical Marvel/DC outcast, one whose differences both set him apart from the rest of society and make him capable of extraordinary feats of bravery and altruism.
Those skills, as well as his bookkeeper activities for terrorists and mobsters, make Christian the target of Treasury director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons) and his newest hire, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), whom King blackmails into working for him — a plot thread emblematic of Bill Dubuque’s script, which is overloaded with backstory details and plot points (including some throwaway nonsense that wastes Jeffrey Tambor) that are alternately superfluous and ridiculous (or both). The main thread, however, concerns Christian being hired to figure out how millions went missing from the balance sheet of Lamar Black’s (John Lithgow) medical-robotics firm. To do this, he writes numerical figures all over office windows and shuns the help of in-house accountant Dana. Kendrick embodies her character with her usual chipper charm, but it’s a thankless role that asks her to bond with unfriendly Christian over their shared love of math, freak out when the bullets start flying, and then disappear once the focus shifts to Christian’s hunt for bad guys (led by Jon Bernthal) who want to kill him for reasons related to the aforementioned accounting job, which abruptly ends once another executive kills himself.
The film’s convolutions continue to pile up as it races toward its finish, which comes equipped with a “twist” that will only surprise audience members not paying attention to the handful of characters involved in the proceedings. O’Connor ably stages his climactic barrage of sniper fire and head-shots, yet he fails to acknowledge (much less embrace the fact) that he’s operating in decidedly pulpy terrain. And without a cowl or Kryptonian adversary at whom to rage, Affleck — in a humorless lead turn — stoically grimaces his way through fundamentally outrageous material. Seemingly primed to deliver daffy thrills, “The Accountant” instead goes about its noble-killer business with all the excitement of an IRS audit. [C]