Great action heroes fall into two categories. One is the Average Joe, who must use his seemingly minor talents to fight for survival. Think Robert Redford’s shy bookworm in “Three Days of the Condor” or Dustin Hoffman’s jogging academic in “Marathon Man.” The other is the Wrong Guy to Cross, whose prodigious skills and/or sheer determination allow him to wipe the floor with the bad guys. Think Liam Neeson’s ruthless operative in “Taken” or Bruce Willis’ wily cop in “Die Hard.”
You can’t have it both ways, but nobody told the makers of “The Accountant,” starring Ben Affleck as the preposterous figure of Christian Wolff. His description goes like this: born on the autism spectrum, socially paralyzed, but also an accounting genius, art connoisseur and military veteran with training in martial arts and high-powered weaponry. He’s both Little Man Tate and Jason Bourne.
Hot on his tail are two Treasury Department agents, crusty Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and pretty Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Apparently Wolff cooks the books for mob families and drug cartels. (Why this makes him our hero is a question the film can’t answer.) Wolff also takes a legitimate job auditing Living Robotics, founded by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), who suspects foul play. As Wolff and cute financial analyst Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) uncover the truth, bodies start piling up. The perpetrator is a cocky hit man played by an enjoyable Jon Bernthal.
Casting Affleck as a kind of “Rain Man” figure is an intriguing choice that backfires. Affleck’s Wolff is a jumble of odd tics (such as blowing on his fingers), combat-honed physicality and a wry charm that appears out of nowhere. To be fair, Affleck is hampered by Bill Dubuque’s absurd script. The film never explains why a man averse to loud noises and human contact can strangle and shoot people with ease.
Director Gavin O’Connor, of Huntington, has never been one for humor (“Warrior,” “Jane Got a Gun”), but “The Accountant” could have used a large dose of it. Instead, it’s a ponderous thriller about a patently ridiculous superhero — Carry Forward Deduction Man? — who never even approaches believability. This is definitely one to write off.