Things don't always add up in action-thriller 'Accountant'

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Let's be honest. An action-thriller called "The Accountant" sounds like it should be a parody starring fictional action star Rainier Wolfcastle of "The Simpsons" and feature the catch phrase "You've been audited … permanently."

But, nope, it's a real movie starring a real Ben Affleck that really takes itself quite seriously.

Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a character name I am completely not making up. We first meet Christian as a young autistic boy. His parents take him to a special institute, but it's obvious his gruff military father feels the boy just needs to toughen up.

Present-day Christian doesn't seem that tough. He runs a low-key accounting firm in the suburbs outside of Chicago. But, of course, there's more to his story. He also works to launder money for a bunch of scary criminal organizations.

Elsewhere, a U.S. Treasury agent (J.K. Simmons) is in pursuit of this elusive figure known as the Accountant. And when Christian gets hired for some seemingly legitimate work with a robotics company, events soon take a change for the action-thriller.

"The Accountant" is definitely a scratch-your-itch action movie with enough thrills and twists - some more credible than others - to please an audience. Director Gavin O'Connor ("Warrior," "Miracle") does a passable job unspooling this web with ample doses of action sequences, particularly of the slick assassination variety.

But while it's not the parody its name might suggest, the screenplay by Bill Dubuque does have its issues. When Affleck's mild-mannered accountant starts efficiently dispatching baddies, you obviously wonder how this is happening. As the story hops around the timeline, some details are hazy, and some are a little bit silly.

Affleck is also straddling an odd role; he seems better suited for the action stuff than the math savant who cranks through 15 years of a huge company's financial books in an all-nighter. To borrow a page from the other half of his Hollywood bromance, Affleck is mirroring Matt Damon in two signature roles: He's Will Hunting meets Jason Bourne.

He's got a good cast around him - from Simmons to John Lithgow. Anna Kendrick even pops up in a token role that first looks to be a possible sidekick, and then a love interest, before just sort of fading into the background. It's another example of Hollywood's problem with female characters.

To dock some more points, while it's an overall positive message, Affleck's affect as a man with autism did get a few too many laughs from the test audience for my comfort. This also opens the door to a sequel. We can do better.

"The Accountant"

Opens Thursday

2 ½ stars out of 4