Mental health takes back seat to action

By Nick Erickson, Staff writer

Now and then a movie hits theaters that, while not offering a plot that is terribly innovative, provides unexpected takes on a rehashed plot. The new thriller “The Accountant” is essentially a “superhero” movie, but without the capes and superpowers. That being said, it features the action sought out for as most “superhero” films, but with main character development rather unorthodox, utilizing mental disorders as an aid, in a sense, rather than a handicap, all while making the plot more interesting.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an accountant who specializes in seeing the patterns within sequences of numbers. Suffering from a form of Asperger’s Syndrome, his condition has given him an ability to easily trace and manipulate numbers. It’s revealed that as a child, he dealt with his parents’ divorce and an overbearing military father, who didn’t believed in conventional autism therapy. Instead, Wolff went through many training sessions where his father would continuously order the trainer to beat him more viciously.

All of this training has led Wolff to be highly-skilled in combat, and under the cover of a small Chicago strip-mall office, he leads a second-life cooking the books for large crime organizations. Living under the radar for a long while, his activities eventually attract the attention of the United States Treasury Department, and agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and his associate assigns Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to try and track Wolff down to learn about his secretive nature. As they do, Wolff takes on a new client, a robotics company in which accounting clerk Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a financial discrepancy involving millions of dollars. As Wolff works to unravel the mystery, his endeavors place both him and Cummings in danger, and  it’s up to him to break out his inner mercenary and bone-cracking fighting skills.

Affleck’s portrayal of Wolff crafts a very believable account of someone who actually suffers from autism. He has difficulties socializing with others even though he wants to, and his stagnant, emotionless relationship with Cummings adds to this realism. Along with this, the scenes where the audience can watch Wolff’s daily routine, and how he manages with his heightened sensitivity levels, is believable and invokes sympathetic thoughts. Dubuque  makes effective use of flashbacks to illustrate the moments of Wolff’s youth, including the scenes containing Wolff’s father and his harsh, self-deemed important life lessons, all while trying to manage his son’s disorder.

This troubling backstory of regret, family issues and relevant social commentary on mental health is only one half of the equation. There’s the inevitable action movie sequences that are entertaining. Their abundance is likely fueled by the notion that it’s “market-friendly”, but honestly, the scenes of intensity and bloodshed make the film far more exciting.

“The Accountant” is odd, but still nothing too remarkable. Besides the eye-pleasing display of brawling action, one could argue that in an unconventional sense, this film allows Ben Affleck to display that mental disorders do not have to set limitations for oneself, and anyone can be a hero. However positive this message may be, it’s probably easiest to appreciate the moments where tensions are high and guns are blazing.