Review by Allan L. Branson
What has Ben Affleck been eating? Since his anti-hero opus, The Town, he has grown in muscle mass and auteurial skills. That true crime drama was followed up with a historic political thriller Argo, then a buff uncompromising Batman, as the character was meant to be portrayed in that franchise – brutal…a little bad and a little good – someone to be feared! If fear of the anti-hero is what you are looking for, Affleck’s recent offering is exactly what you get. In this fictional crime drama, his character Christian Wolff (an appropriate surname) is a high functioning autistic accountant, whose military father intuits that his sons, especially Christian need to adapt to a cruel world not the other way around. The second son, in adulthood is played by Jon Bernthal who for a short time played the devious deputy, Shane on the television series, The Walking Dead.
Once you see the physicality required for this film Bernthal was an excellent choice as a co-star. Both he and Affleck train hard in real life. Flashback scenes play a major role in this taut drama but not in a Tarantino way (a’ la Pulp Fiction) but as a necessary vehicle towards character development. The real world martial arts training, for Affleck is apparent and for the audience rendered in boyhood flashbacks. Affleck dispatches foes with a brutal emotionless vengeance not seen since Steven Segal’s first movie. Before Take Sensei, Segal became heavier and more notably right wing, he quipped in his premiere classic Above the Law, “…you guys think you are above the law, well you ain’t above mine.” Christian Wolff too has a moral center gleaned from his father, and prison mentor (played by Jeffrey Tambor aka Francis Silverberg) it is his Kantian “categorical imperative.” What has begun must be finished, note the Muhammad Ali jigsaw puzzle symbolically shown in the beginning of the movie and is an ever-present thematic underpinning.
With the ability to discern mathematical configurations of a savant, Mr. Wolff, whose skillful reputation precedes him, has been utilized by cartels, the mafia and corporations for many reasons. Payments apparently are rendered to him in cash and original works of art. This fact was noted by Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings a second-generation nerdy accountant who is dwarfed only by Mr. Affleck’s physical presence, not his acting chops. Her fresh innocence and wonderment remain (see End of Watch). What it takes her a sleepless week to uncover as Living Robotics in-house accountant, Affleck’s character does overnight.
The cast is star studded, newcomer Cynthia Addai-Robinson whose checkered past needs to be hidden is fodder for blackmail by her boss, J.K. Simmons as the soon to be retired Treasury agent, Ray King. Ever since Ray’s life was spared he needs to know who and what type of person the accountant really is. John Lithgow is Living Robotics corporate CEO, Lamar Black. While the ending of the film wanes a bit as Christian reunites with his brother in an oh so strange way, you must be patient. Like getting your taxes done, its seems slow, then it gets scary but overall in the end, the refund you weren’t anticipating from this action drama is BIG!