Here is one true thing you could say about Ben Affleck's latest big movie: It was bold to make a thriller about a CPA. The Accountant starts with a burden to prove: that the life of a tax professional can make for a sexy, suspenseful premise. My tax guy is named Doug, and while he is very good at educating me about write-offs, I would not say that he's otherwise especially compelling. (Sorry, Doug. See you in January!) But of course, Affleck's character, Christian Wolff, is nothing at all like Doug. For one thing: Wolff has a troubled past. (Okay, maybe Doug does, too. But you would never guess it from the way he says "okeydoke" to all my itemized line deductions.) Wolff is a math savant who also appreciates fine art. He has an original Jackson Pollock hanging on the ceiling of his pristine vintage Airstream trailer. As a kid, after his mom abandoned the family, Wolff traveled the world with his brother and dad, and basically learned to be a ninja by getting beat up a lot. Sometimes, he conducts target practice with cantaloupes. Also, there is a lot of heavy-handed hinting that he has Asperger's syndrome. Oh, and Wolff is an alias because Affleck's character is on the lam, but also a government informant. Does that sound like a lot? It is a lot. It is, in fact, too much. The result is that it is nearly impossible to understand this character's motivations or really care about what's happening on screen in any meaningful way. The Accountant also suffers from the too-many-things problem on a more macro level.
It's a movie about a man who cooks the books for a dangerous crime organization — so it's a suspense thriller. But it's also a commentary on the way the world engages with autistic kids, and, briefly, a rom-com between Wolff and another tax pro named Dana Cummings, played by Anna Kendrick. At some point, Jeffrey Tambor shows up and is delightful and then gets tortured to death by a mobster. But his presence is also confusing because, like Affleck, he is actually too talented for this tangled screenplay. There are parts of The Accountant that are so deeply ridiculous and melodramatically overwrought that people laughed out loud during the screening. One of those people was me, and for a while, I honestly wondered if maybe the director was just pulling our chain. In one scene, Wolff returns to a fancy hotel and finds Dana sleeping on the couch. He leaves her a cheesy note about why he can't stay to make out or something, and then backs out of the room slowly, watching her through the cracked door until it closes. All you see is his unblinking eye, which is weird and creepy. The woman next to me clapped a hand over her giggles. But perhaps the most laughable part of the whole movie is the side plot about a federal investigation, in which law enforcement agents are trying to figure out who is killing wealthy white people in and around the Chicago metro area. (Actually, I am not laughing about that. Chicago's murder epidemic is a serious problem. The Accountant just gets the victims wrong.) So... Should you see it? I think you already know my answer. What I will say is that I was entertained, if not for the reasons that perhaps I was meant to be. If it's free and you're hungover on a Sunday morning someday when this is streaming, go for it. But otherwise, save your Fandango dollars for a movie that makes more sense. I suspect your accountant would agree with that assessment. The Accountant opens in theaters October 14, 2016.