Stay on target MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ The premise of The Accountant finds Ben Affleck is an accountant (hence the title) named Christian Wolff who on the surface seems like a regular, good-natured small town “does your aunt’s taxes” type who, in reality, is an internationally wanted rogue mystery man who earns massive paydays from dictators, arms dealers, crime syndicates and other dangerous characters by performing seemingly-impossible feats of financial trickery like a human supercomputer. And because he moves in such unsavory company, he’s also a weapons expert, incredible marksman and hand-to-hand combat expert so if you cross him… you’ll probably get fucked up pretty bad.But that’s not the “hook” of The Accountant, as they say: Instead, the hook is that Wolff’s superhuman math skills are owed to his having a high-functioning form of autism, which in turn also appears (at first to account for his low profile and socially-withdrawn demeanor.Now, let’s be honest: That’s the kind of premise that could really go either way. Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record of depicting autism (even when it’s trying to be sensitive about it), and while the basic pitch of “Hey, here’s this badass fuck-you-up Jason Bourne-type antihero who happens to have autism!” is theoretically a positive premise for representation’s sake alone; but it could also easily tip over into the tacky cliché where autism gives one super-powers – as in: “Oh, he’s super-focused, so that’s why he’s so good with kung-fu and guns.”Fortunately, that’s not the angle that The Accountant actually takes: His skills with math come from the unique way his mind functions, but the bigger idea is that Wolff’s martial-arts, survivalist, and weaponry skills were imparted to him by his ex-military hard case father to help him protect himself in a world that might not understand him. So he’s an action hero who is autistic, as opposed to being autism “powered.” I honestly don’t feel like I’m in a position to say whether that means the premise isn’t still vaguely exploitative, but it’s definitely making a sincere effort to not be.In fact, thematically it’s bending over backwards to make sure we all know that Wolff isn’t a stereotypical “movie autism” character: The plot concerning his backstory and motives especially is overwhelmingly concerned with making a statement about how we overlook and underestimate such people, and spends considerable time making the point that Wolff isn’t “childlike” or “innocent” or some kind of adorably-unself-conscious tic-spouting human calculator: He’s an adult man with complex emotions, desires, opinions and who fully understands the world – he just processes and interacts with it differently.As a main character, he’s incredibly compelling even as the film around him occasionally forgets to make sense, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to Affleck. To be certain, our most-recent Batman has always been something of a limited instrument as an actor, but he makes the character feel real and three-dimensional – or as real as he can given that this is the sort of movie that can segue from realistic flashbacks about raising a child on the autism spectrum to other flashbacks where that same child is being trained in the martial arts by a wizened Pencak-Silat master in the ruins of an Indonesian temple. (Really.)The actual plot, for what it’s worth, involves The Accountant taking on a rare non-criminal client in the tech sector; only to end up uncovering evidence of a conspiracy that turns him and an employee he’s befriended played by Anna Kendrick into targets for assassination – which will require all of Wolff’s skills (and then some) to outwit and eventually solve the mystery. Unfortunately, the mystery is where the movie kind of breaks down.Not that it’s a “bad” mystery – it’s fine, it has a sensible and mostly satisfying payoff. But the film gets so invested in being a mystery and playing with the mechanics of twists, reveals, and hidden motivations that it ends up smothering the pretty good story and the very good character work otherwise on display: Chiefly, while Wolff is trying to solve the “who wants us dead” mystery, there’s also a parallel storyline about J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Treasury Agents who are trying to figure out the mystery of who “The Accountant” actually is. And while they’re both fine, the storyline just everything needlessly fucking complicated. For their storyline to work as a mystery, there has to be important information for them to discover – and that means the main story has to arbitrarily leave out information about Wolff to BE discovered – and the film never really finds a full balance between the two.So instead it just keeps piling up surprise reveals, and all but one that comes at the very end feel pointless: Not in the “we didn’t need to know that sense,” but in the “there was no reason for that to be held back as a surprise” sense. And while retelling a fairly conventional thriller story in a way that plays with nonlinear timelines, unreliable narration, willfully withholding key information and then finishing it all off with a big surprise reveal has occasionally resulted in a good movie (hell, The Usual Suspects following that exact formula tricked people into thinking Bryan Singer was good at making movies for like 20 years!)But more often you end up with movies like The Accountant, where you’re largely confused for most of it and then once its all explained you’re likely to be left thinking: “Oh, okay. Well, that was alright… but I bet just a regular movie letting us watch this interesting main character do his thing would’ve been better.” I mean, I can honestly barely be bothered to remember what the point of the present-day part of the story even was – but I absolutely want to know whose books Christian Wolff is gonna go over next… and who else’s head he’s gonna take off with that gigantic sniper rifle.