This post has been rated “S” for Spoilers.
Ben Affleck is an amazing Batman.
It still feels kind of weird to say that, but as it turns out the whole “Batfleck” controversy was actually the least of our concerns when it came to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ben Affleck is actually the best part of the movie. Sure, the script fundamentally misunderstands Batman and turns the World’s Greatest Detective into a bit of dullard with serious anger issues. Plus, we’ll never be able to unsee this:
But none of that is Affleck’s fault. There’s still the potential for a really great Batman underneath all of that. As such, the internet has been begging WB to strike while the iron is hot and formally announce and date a solo Batman movie to be written and directed by Affleck. Are you kidding me? WB would love to! The only thing holding this up is Affleck, who continues to state in interviews they are currently working on a script but will not move forward until the script is ready. This is coming from the man who starred in Daredevil, Paycheck, and Batman v Superman. So, he knows what can happen when you rush into something before the script is ready.
However, we can all stop pestering the man for updates on what is currently being called The Batman. Turns out, he’s already made a solo Batman movie, at least in spirit.
Say hello to The Accountant, director Gavin O’Connor’s (Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) new action-thriller about a highly functioning autistic man named Chris Wolff (Affleck) who cooks the books for domestic and international criminal organizations but also [spoiler alert] sometimes viciously murders members of those organizations if they violate his moral code.
Okay. That pretty much instantly disqualifies any kind of Batman comparison because, contrary to what Zack Snyder thinks, Batman doesn’t kill people. That’s kind of his whole thing, the moral underpinning which separates him from the bad guys. A vigilante who kills the bad guys is really more Punisher/Dexter territory, an easy comparison to make since Jon Bernthal, Marvel’s current Punisher, is actually in The Accountant as Chris’ contract killer rival.
Sure, but Chris has his own:
Bat cave – A trailer full of weapons and practically priceless items like an original Jackson Pollack painting and pristinely preserved Action Comics #1. To keep up appearances, he has an actual home, albeit a largely unfurnished one, but the trailer is where he spends most of his time.
Dual identity – He maintains an accounting firm in a strip mall as a front, pretending to be a normal accountant when in fact he’s actually one of the world’s smartest mathematicians and regularly travels the globe to test his skills on the most complicated accounting problems imaginable.
Immense wealth and related Robin Hood syndrome – He launders all of his money through various small businesses, and then donates the majority of it to a specific research institute which helps autistic children.
Early stage Commissioner Gordon – J.K. Simmons as a head treasury agent who initially views Chris as a menace but grows to accept him as a necessary evil, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow‘s Amanda Waller) as Simmons’ blackmailed protege who begrudgingly reaches a similar conclusion about Chris.
Oracle – A mysterious British voice Chris regularly communicates with over the phone for logistical support and intel. In the final scene, we learn the person behind the voice is someone close to Chris. Unlike Barbara Gordon, this Oracle is not wheelchair bound, but she does have a disability.
Dead parent backstory – Chris doesn’t exactly see his parents killed in front of him at a young age, but he is present when his father is shot at his mother’s funeral. On top of that, his vigilante leanings are kickstarted by the death of his secondary father figure/mentor, Jeffrey Tambor’s imprisoned money launderer who is tortured to death for testifying against the mob.
Love interest he can never fully be with – Anna Kendrick plays a young accountant at a cutting edge neurorobotics firm where her discovery of an inconsistency in the books prompts the company’s leadership (most notably John Lithgow and Jean Smart) to hire Chris as an outside consultant.
Because she’s Anna Kendrick doing the Anna Kendrick thing, she’s beyond adorable, and after some initial awkwardness Chris grows attached to her, springing into brutal action to save her when their dual discovery of a missing $68 million in the books threatens both of their lives. However, much like Batman with any love interest ever Chris just can’t quite open up to Kendrick’s character, although here it’s more due to his autism than any kind of Bruce Wayne/Batman schism.
Batman Begins–esque flashbacks – Periodic flashbacks offer glimpses of Chris’ childhood, charting the deterioration of his parent’s marriage (the mom runs out on them when the stress of raising an autistic child proves too much for her) followed by his military dad’s questionable choice to train him as a soldier as a means of harnessing his aggression and thus focusing his energies. This particular part of Chris’ backstory is far more Dexter Morgan than Bruce Wayne.
An article-accented superhero name – To the majority of the world, Chris is simply The Accountant, a mysterious individual with almost superhuman abilities. In fact, that superhero-esque title is used in reference to him nearly as often as his actual name.
Solomon Grundy… – Okay, this is a reach, but in the DC universe Solomon Grundy is a reanimated corpse villain. In The Accountant, Chris frequently recites the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme under his breath to stay under control, reusing a method his father employed taught him as a child.
Of course, as a Batman fan I tend to see Batman everywhere, even in Legend of Tarzan. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Affleck went straight from filming Batman v Superman to filming Accountant, meaning the bulky mess of muscles that filled out the batsuit similarly fill out dress shirts and ties in The Accountant. Thus, watching him brutalize opponents in this new setting is not so different than this:
However, Accountant is probably no more a specific Batman pastiche than it is a Dexter/Punisher pastiche. There’s even a fair dose of John Wick in there, specifically the “Oh shit, did I just see that?”, gun fu action scenes. Chris isn’t so much a full-blown vigilante yet as he is a man who avenged the death of his mentor and protected the life of the closest thing he’s ever had to a girlfriend. However, as Uproxx argued The Accountant ” is transparent in its attempt both to pimp a future franchise and give autistic kids their own superhero. There’s a genuine sweetness to the latter that converts me on the former. Headshots, math problems, and pained social interactions? Sign me up.”
So, what the heck is with all of those lazy “The Accountant Doesn’t Add Up” headlines being used by other reviewers?
Oh, because it’s a movie about an accountant. And you used “add up.” Because he’s an accountant. And he adds and subtracts things. And not adding up is bad.
Sick burn, man.
Here’s the thing, though: they’re not wrong. The Accountant doesn’t quite hold together. You can fairly say its various parts, lifted wholesale from other superhero/vigilante narratives and mashed together to create something new, don’t completely add up. The final third, in particular, works way, way too hard to connect all the dots, and somewhere around the halfway point O’Connor and his editor (Richard Pearson) lose their touch for natural scene transitions, suddenly holding shots on actors faces for just a little too long.
Plus, there is an odd incongruity to a film in which the hero both has a Good Will Hunting-esque montage of mathematic brilliance (mostly entailing Chris murmuring numbers to himself while furiously filling up the walls of a conference room with profit and loss figures) as well as multiple hyper-violent hand-to-hand combat sequences ala Jason Bourne. It’s like Affleck combined two of best bud Matt Damon’s biggest roles into one.
Yet I loved The Accountant for that incongruity. I admired the transparent attempt to mimic the superhero narrative without any actual source material to lean on. I frequently talked back to the screen in disbelief, not because of the plot twists but because some of the action beats were so expertly executed they caught me completely off guard, thanks also to Chris’ near-constant (i.e., hard to read) dispassionate facial expression. I laughed when I was supposed to, as O’Connor uses Chris matter-of-fact reactions to comically undercut the tension when the action starts to get a little over the top. And I walked away hoping to someday see a sequel.
Screw The Batman and Justice League; give me The Accountant 2: The Final Deduction.
Wait, that’s really more of a third or fourth movie title. How about Accountant 2: Balance Sheet of Death?
Double wait. Am I now totally guilty of making those same lazy accounting puns I mocked earlier? For shame.
THE BOTTOM LINE
One of the best superhero movies of 2016.