By Eleanor Ringel Cater
There’s simply something meta about Ben Affleck playing a so-called “wooden” character in his new movie, “The Accountant.”
Affleck is himself such a wooden actor that his performance suggests the funhouse mirror sequence in Orson Welles’ ‘”The Lady from Shanghai.” A reflection of a reflection of a reflection ad infinitum.
Let’s face it. Affleck never has been much of an actor. About decade or so ago, the Bennifer implosion hinted that his on-screen days were over. He turned to directing and he wasn’t half-bad; in fact, he was much better than he was as an actor. But then came “Argo” and a bunch of Oscars and now there’s apparently no getting rid of him.
In “The Accountant,” he plays CPA Christian Wolff, a man who suffers from a severe form of autism. How can we tell? Well, aside from some yawningly simplistic flashbacks to his childhood, we also get to see him sitting down to breakfast: three eggs arranged just so, three pieces of toast arranged just so, three strips of bacon arranged … you get the idea.
However, while he may be so autistic that he can barely function in normal situations, he’s also a super-duper action hero who can crunch necks as well as he crunches numbers. Maybe that’s why so many of his clients are shady types – mobsters, international money launderers, etc.
That attracts the attention of Treasury agent, J.K Simmons (you know him as the State Farm shill/ Oscar winner from “Whiplash”). But how to track Affleck down? Conveniently, he’s currently handling the books for a seemingly (emphasis on seemingly) upright businessman (John Lithgow) whose thing is computerized prosthetics. How noble is that?
Noble enough for one of his employees to be Anna Kendrick, exercising her patented goofball charm in the role of a junior accountant who’s supposed to help Affleck. Of course, she’s mostly there – surprise! – to be rescued. Especially from a lethal assassin played by Jon Bernthal.
“The Accountant” is one of those movies in which a lot seems to be going on, but not much actually happens, aside from some bombastic action sequences designed to show us how amazing Affleck is.
In many ways, the movie suggests Affleck’s version of his buddy Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne franchise. The difference is, Damon can actually act and Affleck can actually … well, as I said, he does wooden really well.
Otherwise, “The Accountant” just doesn’t add up.
And here’s a tip I never thought I’d give: if you’re looking for some truly enjoyable action-flick escapism, forget “The Accountant” and head for Tom Cruise in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.”
I’m not kidding.