It’s crazy to think that in the year of Ben Affleck’s highly-anticipated and equally disappointing Batman v Superman that a film called The Accountant would be his best superhero flick.
Make no mistake – The Accountant is a superhero movie. It may not have the budget or sprawling cast of Suicide Squad, but it’s one of the most enjoyable and the most original superhero movie thus far this year.
Affleck is Christian Wolff, a mild-mannered accountant who drives to work every day and helps the neighbourhood with their taxes – when he’s not the numbers cruncher to whichever black market bidder can afford his particular set of accounting skills.
An army brat diagnosed with high-functioning autism at an early age, knowing his life wouldn’t be easy, Christian’s father taught him martial arts, self-defence and various other particular sets of skills that don’t make him an easy target, with Christian himself channeling his cerebral abilities toward his chosen profession while routinely knocking off bad guys.
Not only is The Accountant a superhero film, it’s a superhero film darkly reflective of one of the earliest and most iconic superheroes of all time – Superman. Wolff doesn’t actually disguise himself by night to wreak havoc; like Clark Kent concealing his actual self by day as a forbearing workhorse with suit and glasses to boot, shedding them at a moment’s notice only when he has to trounce some bad guy. Creating his own fortress of solitude, a secret trailer where he goes to ruminate with his stash of mint-condition comics and original Luke Skywalker lightsabre, his own home, while seemingly unremarkable, bears enough heavy-duty fortifications to take on a small army.
There’s a girl, of course, in the guise of Anna Kendrick, also doubling as a sidekick of sorts, who spends a fair amount of time getting rescued from a team of baddies lead by Jon Bernthal’s elite commando, barely distinguishable in manner and action from his spectacular turn as The Punisher in Daredevil’s second season. As usual, amidst the excellent action and readily predictable if not unsatisfying denouements, the minor character motivations and rationale driving the shady corporation behind it all aren’t very clear or well thought out. A penultimate voice-over, markedly close to Professor X’s cold-opens in the first two X-Men films expounding on his subjects’ widely misunderstood, uncanny abilities, leaves the keen viewer in not doubt as to Director Gary O’Connor’s underlying direction.
As if the similarities to DC Comics weren’t enough, a Commissioner Gordon type-figure is wantonly along for the ride as dogged law enforcement pursues leads to the shadowy figure. Starring no less than the current incarnation of Batman himself, numerous flashbacks to a troubled childhood and Wolff’s ‘origin story’ reveal the tragic shooting death of a loved one, at which he was intimately present, propelling him on his path. As is want to be the case with superhero flicks, it’s very much a family affair.
The Accountant is not the first feature to deal with near superhuman figures characterized by autism or neurological conditions, with FX series Archer teasing its own titular hero’s purported diagnosis in season four. M. Night Shyamalan’s indestructible superhero cult-smash Unbreakable, in many ways a thematic precursor to The Accountant, similarly meditated on the folkloric origins of superhuman, if outwardly singular figures in comic fare and the modern genesis of both good, and bad guys from like legends. Left-field hit Swiss Army Man, while not a superhero movie, earlier this year explored its shunned central figure’s especial abilities and their profound impact when unleashed.
Affleck’s dead-pan delivery in parts, recalled in any Batman film to connote menace or a Bond flick to convey dispassion, works supremely well in the world O’Connor has constructed and like a button on any Marvel or DC action-fest is deployed throughout to relieve the tension, not least of all when Wolff nonchalantly and hilariously signals at a couple after they are assailed by gunmen. His summary dispatching of an adversary in the middle of a long-winded speech, while seemingly unremarkable and played for effect, takes on much greater resonance in the ensuing minutes as O’Connor jocundly elaborates on the film and it’s central figure’s involute underpinnings, which like any good superhero ploy nicely sets The Accountant up for a sequel.
Treading edgy ground, even with some surface-level engagement of the issues and a woeful ten minute-plus piece of exposition by supporting star J.K. Simmons, O’Connor’s considered handling of the material and exploration of some of the more sensitive themes, most evident in the film’s latter half, results in a flick as incisive as it is compulsive and original.
Something that can be enjoyed for its heftier undertones or just as a big action extravaganza, there’s a lot of good reasons to go see The Accountant.
The Accountant is in cinemas from November 3, 2016