“The Accountant”

 

                He blows on the tips of his fingers.  He straightens his knife, fork, and spoon so that they are perfectly parallel and equidistant from one another.  He carefully separates his eggs, bacon, and toast so that they are also separate, and also equidistant from one another.  He eats alone, expressionless.  No television, no radio, no music, no external stimulation.  Just the quiet.  He lives alone.  He doesn’t have any friends.  He has difficulty with social interaction because he doesn’t articulate his feelings easily, and he doesn’t pick up the nonverbal cues from others.  He is extremely intelligent, avoids eye contact, doesn’t realize how blunt he is, and though is extraordinarily talented at problem-solving, he gets frustrated easily when he can’t complete the task.

                As a kid, his mother and father battled constantly over how to raise him.  His mother, recognizing both his great gifts and his unique challenges, wanted specialists to treat him.  His father, a strict military sort, thought that was exactly the wrong approach.  The boy didn’t need to be coddled, he needed to be forced to do things he didn’t want to do.  Like fight with other kids when they picked on him.  The Mom just left in frustration.  So his Dad took him to martial arts experts to learn to fight.  His Dad did allow enrollment in a special school, which he considered an advanced academy, because it seemed to help the boy control his emotions.

                Now that he’s a grown man, he leads a double life.  By day, he’s a small-time tax accountant in a non-descript strip shopping center.  He lives in a typical ranch house in a quiet suburb, and drives an ordinary car.  He dresses neatly and conservatively.  He does not draw attention to himself.  He even names his little accounting office “ZZZ”, because it would be the last one that people would randomly choose (the first being AAA).  But he has learned to parlay his unique skills in data collection, retention, and analysis.  He can spot any irregularity in the accounting, no matter how huge the problem, or how skillful the book-cookers.  And so he’s been hired by people like the heads of drug cartels, or huge corporations about to embark on its life-changing IPO.  It doesn’t matter to him if the business is “legal” or not, strictly speaking.  He’s just interested in the facts and figures of its complex transactions.  Oh, and if things get a little rough out there, he can always take care of himself.  And his army training gave him weapons expertise, as well.

                He’s recently been hired by a robotics firm, headed by a man seemingly covered in altruism, but he fears he’s being fleeced.  One of his accountants has spotted a possible leak in the cash flow.  Could “The Accountant” please come analyze?  But of course there are more layers of intrigue here than meets the eye.  And our “Accountant” will find both personal and professional challenges in this job.

                This is a good role for Ben Affleck.  He has a tendency toward “non-affect,” or not a lot of emotional response in his acting, but this role is perfectly suited for his deadpan demeanor.  All he has to do is act fidgety and neurotic, which he does well.  The support roles are solid, the plot is well-developed, and though the story line jumps time sequence, it’s still easy to follow, and helps develop the characters.  Altogether, it’s a taut thriller with a bit of violence, but holds the viewer’s attention with this unusual main character with the autism/Asperger’s.  He may look like a harmless geek, but don’t get on his bad side.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                   Have you known people with Asperger’s, or other forms of autism?  How developed were their social skills?

2)                  When have you met someone who was much more intelligent than you first assumed?

3)                  If you had extraordinary gifts, how would you use them?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association