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The Accountant (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 128 minutes.

Not for children.

While this is a violent thriller, it is also a remarkably sensitive look at autism. While some might joke that the moral might be that even though your child is autistic, he or she can still grow up to be an assassin, it’s actually much deeper than that. While this autistic child, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), does, in fact, grow up to be a humorless, violent killer, the movie strains to show that even severely autistic children can have lives of value, a point that is made many times throughout the film.

In fact, however, Christian is an autistic savant. While only about 10% of autistic children have savant syndrome, approximately 50% of savants are autistic.

Even though it’s pretty long, director Gavin O’Connor keeps the pace steady and is aided by a top flight cast that includes Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor (who, for all his credits, will always be Hank Kingsley [“Hey, Now!”] on The Larry Sanders Show for me) and Jean Smart, who is greatly underused for an actress of her caliber. I would have liked to have seen more of her. I can only assume that much of her work ended up on the cutting room floor.

The movie starts by introducing us to Christian as a child (Seth Lee), growing up with his parents and brother (played by Jake Presley as a child). This establishes Christian as severely autistic, but when we meet him decades later he is a dour accountant with little or no personality. Because his father (Rob Treveiler) recognized that children would be cruel to someone as different as Christian he put Christian and his brother through severe training in martial arts.

As a result Christian is an unemotional killing machine, not just an accountant. On the other side is Ray King (Simmons), the head of the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division who is trying to find the guy who seems to be killing a lot of people. Ray hires a young analyst, Mary Beth Medina (Cynthia Addai–Robinson) to track the killer down.

Christian has an unseen handler who talks to him electronically. She thinks he should go underground for a while, so he takes a job with Living Robotics, a cutting edge electronics company, which seems to have a discrepancy in its books just as it is about to go public. Christian takes the job to audit their books. Because he is a savant, he does a miraculous job. As an aside, the campus of Georgia Tech served as the ultra modern headquarters of Living Robotics.

There he meets Dana Cummings (Kendrick), a junior accountant who uncovered the problem and while her personality is a bit too much for Christian, there is an attraction.

Living Robotics is run by Lamar Blackburn (Lithgow) and his sister, Rita (Smart). Lamar has hired a security team, headed by Brax (Jon Bernthal), to protect him and Brax is trying to find Christian, also.

All this sets the stage for the movie. It’s Christian against everyone else, and O’Connor does a good job of keeping it going with good tension aided immeasurably by the music of Mark Isham which captures the action, emotion, and suspense of the story.

This is a well done thriller that does not lag.