If Ben Affleck hadn’t already landed the role of Batman, “The Accountant” would have been a formidable audition reel. This cheekily preposterous movie, about an autistic CPA who turns out to be an unstoppable killing machine, is not far removed from the realm of comic-book superheroes, in which protagonists often lead double lives, quietly blending into normal society and donning a cape and tights when their services are needed.
Christian Wolff, a math whiz who operates a small accounting firm out of a strip-mall storefront, never wears a proper costume. But the rest of his life would play out nicely within the confines of comic-book panels. He fights like an MMA champion. He’s an Olympics-caliber marksman who can hit targets from impossible distances. He can crunch enormous numbers in his head at a glance. He can process tax returns at the speed of 10 accountants. He even has his own variation on the Batcave: an Airstream trailer, parked inside a storage unit, loaded with cash and precious objects (an original Pollock painting, an authentic light saber prop used in “Star Wars”).
“The Accountant,” which feels like the sort of movie that good actors agree to make as a favor (distributor Warner Bros. is also releasing Affleck’s Prohibition-era drama “Live by Night” in December), boasts a cast much too talented for this silly material. Anna Kendrick (as another accountant and potential romantic interest), J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (as treasury agents), Jon Bernthal (as a hit man) and John Lithgow (as a corporate big shot) weave in and out of the movie. There are other famous faces here and there.
Mostly, though, there is Affleck, who seems much more engaged while acting out Christian’s unusual tics and habits — including a strange OCD daily ritual involving strobe lights and thrash metal — than he does going through the action-hero motions. Nothing about the character is the slightest bit believable, but Affleck sells you on the construct of this peculiar loner anyway. No wonder he’ll be playing Bruce Wayne for the foreseeable future: He can anchor the preposterous in a semblance of reality.
“The Accountant” was directed with style and vigor by Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior,” “Miracle”), a filmmaker capable of investing old formulas with fresh life. But the screenplay, by Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”) is a needlessly complicated contraption, with lots of flashbacks and narrative loops that lead nowhere. The movie, which runs half an hour longer than this pulpy material merited, culminates with a big twist so predictable, you’d swear you had already seen it in the film’s trailer. For all its respectable airs, “The Accountant” mostly induces shrugs. Sometimes, B-movies fare better when they settle for being their lowbrow selves.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart.
Director: Gavin O’Connor.
Screenwriter: Bill Dubuque.
A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 128 minutes. Vulgar language, strong violence, gore, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.