In recent years, I've become a little blasé towards movies. I see trailers, read reviews about how apparently amazing a film is - then I watch it, and more often than not come away with a feeling of disappointment that it wasn't better. Then there are some movies which completely slip under my radar, and which re-affirm my love of cinema. The Accountant is one such film. I had no idea of it until I saw a trailer on the net close to release date, slightly misled by the unassuming title. Interest piqued, I read more about it and was immediately hooked by the premise. An autistic maths genius, with CIA calibre military training, operating as a mild mannered accountant in nowheresville but covertly making his fortune doing freelance number crunching on behalf of the world's major criminal organisations. With J.K. Simmon's Treasury agent breathing down his neck, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) decides to take on a legitimate client. Ironically, the job turns out to be his most precarious yet - threatening not only himself, but those he has grown close to. A little far fetched? Perhaps. Entertaining? Damn straight.
The Accountant has been dubbed in some quarters along the lines of Good Will Hunting (or Rain Man) meets Jason Bourne with a sprinkle of John Wick. Beyond the fact that the protagonist is a maths savant with a very particular set of skills that make him a nightmare for anyone who might cross him, it actually has little in common with those movies. For starters, The Accountant is smarter (so to speak) and more interesting than the recent sequels to those latter films. Far from being held back by his 'condition', the protagonist's autism is the source of his powers (if he were a superhero....which he kind of is in a quasi realistic way, if you think about it - accountant by day...etc.) Sure, the plausibility alarm may ring loudly, but when a story is told so well - from an original screenplay by former corporate headhunter Bill Dubuque - its a little easier to forgive such reservations (although I should add that there is a revelation during the final confrontation that does kind of shatter the contrivance threshold) .
One of the most refreshing aspects of The Accountant is that, whilst there are a number of totally kickass action set pieces, they are wholly integral to the narrative rather than just there for the sake of it (hello John Wick Chapter Two). It's becoming rare these days when the action is able to complement a really strong plot-line. In this type of genre, I can cite The Bournes Identity and Supremacy, and then its going a little further back to the likes of Collateral, Heat and Leon.
Director Gavin O'Conner couldn't be accused of making the same films. His CV includes comedy (Tumbleweeds), police corruption drama/thriller Pride and Glory, the extremely highly regarded MMA drama Warrior - although he was essentially a director for hire on the troubled western Jane Got a Gun - before making The Accountant. Before the latter, I had only seen Pride and Glory - a decent film with strong performances from Farrell and Norton - and I'm a little embarrassed to say I've still not watched Warrior! The Accountant is directed with the kind of sleek assuredness that'd make you assume O'Conner has made many more action pictures than this. It's reminiscent to when Doug Liman gave us Swingers and Go, and then his next film was The Bourne Identity (a real Keanu "woah!" inducing moment). You might think that any decent director worth his salt should be able to make a good action thriller with a top second unit team/stunt choreographer, but it doesn't always pan out that way - Sam Mendes' meandering and pedestrian Spectre is a good example.
Matthew McConaughey may have had his "McConaughssance" but Ben Affleck (recent indiscrepancies aside) has also had an impressive career renaissance of his own since receiving acclaim with Hollywoodland and becoming a film director of some considerable repute. He was also the best thing about the much maligned (although not by me I hasten to add) Batman Vs Superman. In The Accountant, Affleck is again on good form with an understated, nuanced showing as the titular deadly financial whizz - a marked contrast to the brash, cocksure archetypes that he formally specialised in. The film also has a ridiculously good supporting roster in Anna Kendrick (sharing scenes both amusing and tender with Affleck), J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor and the not unattractive Cynthia Addai-Robinson.
In an industry so obsessed by numerical figures that it often compromises the quality of its output, it is ironic that an unassuming movie entitled The Accountant - with comparatively lesser fanfare than its illustrious counterparts - should emerge as one of 2016's stronger and pleasantly surprising offerings. Of course, Affleck has previous for somewhat misleading titles - he directed and starred in superior crime thriller The Town.