Having grown up with a brother and sister who both suffer from Autism in different stages of severity I must admit to having somewhat of an interest in the way in which the disease is presented on-screen. Over the last few years Autism has become much more prevalent on tv and film, although they seem to distance themselves from the condition The Big Bang Theory is one of the more obvious examples from tv while X+Y, released in 2014, portrayed the link between Autism and advanced skills at Maths. This brilliance for Mathematics plays a crucial role in director Gavin O’Connor’s action thriller The Accountant, but anyone hoping for an in-depth portrayal of the disease would be better off looking elsewhere as the film is much more interested in using Autism as a plot-device for what is nothing more than a generic action film.
It is apparent from the tone of the film that Director Gavin O’Connor sees the eponymous accountant, called Christian Wolff in the film, as a medically assessed Jack Reacher, or Ryan Gosling’s silent assassin character from Drive. He is socially awkward, has very little outward ambition or drive, and understands very little outside of the world that ha has created for himself. The problem here is that these characters, who have their roots in Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” have an unwritten, mysterious past that adds depth to their characters. O’Connor has decided to solve this mystery by diagnosing the central character with Autism. The result is a lead who, despite being played rather well by Ben Affleck, is painfully dull and whose only characteristic is looking slightly moody while beating up bad guys.
Aside from the boring central character the film does a horrible job of explaining a relatively simple plot: mostly because it is constantly withholding key scenes and information in order to make the story much more complicated than it actually is. In fact, The Accountant is so busy in attempting to confuse the audience that it actually manages to bewilder itself, and so resorts to a classic sequence in which J.K Simmons sits down to explain the entire plot to a bemused agent. Her hilarious response is a question that he is ultimately unable to answer, “Why are you telling me this”. The simple answer is, at the risk of sounding arrogant, that this scene is required because the film has done such a lousy job of storytelling that even the characters are completely lost. From there the film is much more assured as Ben Affleck travels to the bad guys house in order to shoot some people. Then there is a twist that is so utterly redundant that it should have infuriated me, it didn’t, but mostly because by that point I would not have cared if the entire film was a dream if it meant that the credits would soon be rolling.
The Accountant is a dull affair that wants to use the Autism disorder as a sort-of “get out of jail free” card for the abilities of its leading character, but does not want the emotional baggage of actually investigating the stigma or limitations the illness can place on an individual. In one sequence Ben Affleck lists off the universally accepted symptoms of Autism, and you can just hear the directors pen move as he ticks each item off of his checklist.