Review – Yeah, I’m the Taxman… (“The Accountant”)

Ben Affleck trades in his cowl and Bat-a-rang for a pocket protector and a serious cachet of weapons as he goes full John Wick / Jason Bourne on the bad guys… after doing their taxes. Can you claim bullets as a deduction?
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Affleck turns in a stoic, stone-faced performance as high-functioning autistic savant, Christian Wolff who, after a brutal childhood we see in flashbacks, becomes a brilliant mathematician and deadly killer, too boot. This thanks to his doting, but severe Army father (Robert Treveiler) who teaches him martial arts and how to shoot. From his little Illinois strip-mall accountancy place, he not only helps out local mom-and-pop farmers with their finances, but he also secretly uncooks the books for some of the most dangerous criminals all over the world. His payment? Cash, gold bars, high-tech guns, and a few rare paintings and comic books. Is one of them the first issue of Detective Comics from 1939?

But being so good at both jobs makes him a wanted man with the Treasury Department, particularly with senior agent Raymond King (J.K. Simmons) who wants him caught before he retires. Helping him out is newbie agent, MaryBeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who is, more or less, blackmailed into finding the invisible accountant. Meanwhile, Christian is hired by Lamar and Rita Blackburn (Jean Smart and John Lithgow) of a cutting edge robotics company to look over their questionable finances, first noticed by their house accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). Christian soon discovers a cleverly hidden $61 million discrepancy in their books. The question is: who done it?

But if things weren’t bad enough, there’s a sarcastic and proficient hired assassin named Braxton (Jon Bernthal) on the loose killing off people who are getting too close to the companies truth. Once Christian, normally a sociopath, makes a connection with Dana and sees that her life is threatened, he leaps into action. Going to his secret Airstream trailer (aka: the bat cave), he meticulously plots his revenge against the bad guys, only to lead to a bullet-riddled conclusion with several surprise twists at the end.

Directed by Gavin O’Connor, this lengthy movie has all the earmarks of a good old-fashioned killer movie, much like recent John Wick ‘blunt-force-trauma’ deadly killer or Jason Bourne’s ‘think-on-your-feet’ assassin. But the writer, Bill Dubuque, who only notably wrote the drama The Judge, is off-point here with his combo James Bond/Rain Man do-gooder. Many plot holes aside (and there are SO many!), the whole idea of a savant/sociopath who gets his orders via a phone call (and you won’t believe who it’s from!) to his impressive cache of weapons to his ninja/combat skills is just too much to accept, even at a suspended disbelief level. And don’t get me started on ALL those FBI photos that never show Christian’s face! Not once?! Seriously?! How is even possible??

Okay, so you got cuter-than-cute Kendrick to add the girl-next-door element to the mess with some very nice fight choreography and, truth be told, I really like J. K. Simmons and I’ll see him in anything he does. Period. His acting is on a whole different level and he just energizes any scene with his presence. Addai-Robinson (from TV’s Arrow) shows off her great acting chops here, but it’s Bernthal (from The Daredevil series) who steals the movie with his swagger and dangerous charm.

Rain Man (1988)

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Without a doubt, the best movie that depicts an autistic savant in their prime is this one, brilliantly portrayed by Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman (which he got for this role, BTW). Add Tom Cruise to the mix, with Barry Levinson directing, and you have an incredible motion picture that took home top Oscars in 1988.

Cruise plays Charlie Babbit, a fast-talking, selfish, egocentric, high-end car importer that learns after his father’s death that he has a brother. And not just a brother, but an autistic savant brother named Raymond (Hoffman) that was left $3 million in his late father’s will! WTH?! Charlie and his long-suffering girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golina) yank Raymond out of his mental institution, in an effort to gain custody of his brother and snatch control of the money. Naturally, Susanna thinks this is heinous, but Charlie can only see $$$ in his eyes.

What the pair learn is Raymond is highly gifted: he has total recall and can memorize complex numbers in a single glance. In order to get to L.A., they have to take a very long arduous road trip instead of flying, since Raymond is terrified of flight… except on Qantas Airlines (because “Qantas never crashes”). Raymond also has a quirk that he MUST watch Judge Wapner on TV’s People Court everyday or else he throws a nasty tantrum. Susanna leaves Charlie to his sinister plan and the two are off to their adventure, which includes a stop-over in Las Vegas for some quick cash. Looks like Charlie is in deep in debt with his creditors and Raymond’s miraculous card counting comes in handy at the blackjack tables.

With the road trip nearly over, Charlie’s debts paid in full, and Susanna back with the boys after a reconciliation, something amazing has occurred in the process. Charlie has bonded with his estranged brother and grown to love him, realizing that his own life is meaningless without his brother in it. In the end, Charlie stops the legal proceedings and lets his brother return to his happy place at the asylum, but promises to visit him.

Written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass, this extraordinary screenplay (which won Best Screenplay) just leaps off the screen with the equally extraordinary performances of Cruise and Hoffman, who really sell their roles. Based on real life savants Kim Peek and Bill Sackter, Hoffman used many of their ticks and mannerisms, being the consummate method actor. Barry Levinson (who got Best Director) had a field day with Cruise and Hoffman, letting them play around with their characters, making them SO believable as brothers; their chemistry together was undeniable. Interesting to note that Golina was actually better parodying herself in the classic Hot Shots! and Hot Shots! Part Deux.

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