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      The Accountant Review

      The Accountant poster

      The Accountant

      Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

      Reassuring the audience that, yes, there will be blood in a movie about a strip-mall accountant, "The Accountant" opens with a flashback of a multiple-murder scene involving mobsters, federal agents and an obscure sense of narrative purpose.

      Then, another flashback, this one to 1989: We're at a neuroscience center for children who live somewhere along the wide spectrum of autism. The boy who will become the math savant played by Ben Affleck is solving a picture puzzle, rocking back and forth, while his brother looks on, quietly, and his parents argue about what's best for their boy.

      The boys' father, a career military man specializing in psychological warfare, believes in tough martial-arts love only slightly less punishing than what Jean-Claude Van Damme endured in "Bloodsport." (Later, there's a Jakarta flashback where the father demands harsher, bloodier Silat training for his boys, lest anybody pick on them, ever.) Geographically and otherwise, though photographed in and around Atlanta doubling for Chicago and environs, "The Accountant" is all over the place. It's an odd, thickly plotted, two-faced action movie. Screenwriter Bill Dubuque ("The Judge") solemnly offers various statistics and symptomatic descriptions relating to autism, while building scenarios designed to let our hero, played by Affleck, kill anonymous goon after anonymous goon, with a "wow, cool" array of firearms and anti-aircraft weaponry.

      Directed by Gavin O'Connor, with just enough drive to take your mind off the preposterousness of the story, "The Accountant" dangles the promise that with luck, understanding and perseverance, your autism-spectrum child might one day grow up to be a mass-murdering numbers whiz of noble purpose. Months before his retirement, the weary U.S. Treasury crime division honcho played by J.K. Simmons wants to nail this mystery man, whose chief alias is Christian Wolff, a numbers-crunching freelancer for some of the world's most heinous drug lords.

      With a cool-headed Treasury analyst (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) on his tail, Wolff takes a legit job for cover, analyzing the messy financials of a robotics firm (John Lithgow plays the founder). The firm's accountant, played by Anna Kendrick, has discovered some disturbing, multimillion dollar irregularities. When the Kendrick character's imperiled, Wolff is forced to leave his comfort zone and become a savior-protector.

      Wolff is like a lot of action movie protagonists. He's a loner. He's fastidious. He reveres his private arsenal. He doesn't like complication. The autism is the something extra. There are moments in "The Accountant," in between scenes of people getting shot in the head from long distances followed by people getting shot in the head up close, when the movie can barely get its storytelling straight (a key funeral flashback setting up a major plot revelation is, like, "Huh? What?"). But the novelty of the premise will be enough for many.

      It's fitfully amusing to see Affleck out-math-whiz the role played by Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting." "The Accountant" could've been titled "Good Will Killing," or "Rain Man with a Vengeance." I admit I would've had a hard time getting through it without the help of Simmons and Addai-Robinson, over there in the B plot. The character at the center of the story is treated with respect and admiration, but in dramatic terms he's about as real-world plausible as Batman: an assassin who can out-Bourne Bourne, and who can out-compute the entire cast of "The Imitation Game."

      MPAA rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout).

      Running time: 2:08

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