October 30, 2016 -- This would be a standard action film, except for the unique nature of the main character, an emotionally wounded autistic mathematical savant who is also skilled in martial arts and the use of guns. He wants to connect emotionally with other people, but that's not in his nature. Can an autistic person really do this stuff? I have no idea, but it seems within the realm of possibility.
It is possible this film could be the start of a franchise. It has good franchise elements, a wandering, socially awkward nerdy math genius commando who does good deeds and kills the kind of bullies who used to terrorize socially awkward nerds in school. He is a nerd's wet dream. He is the sort of video game hero they love to inhabit in the digital realm.
This film not only has that hero (played by Ben Affleck of “Argo”) but it has other characters seeking redemption, or who are trying to escape their troubled pasts. One of those is treasury agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson of “Columbiana”) who is assigned the case of finding the identity a mysterious accountant tied to the murder of several criminals. Her boss, Ray King (J.K. Simmons of “Whiplash”) who has a complicated past of his own, uncovers facts about Medina's past, and uses that information to force her to quickly solve the mystery of the accountant's identity, or else.
We see the accountant in his humble strip mall office helping a married couple with their taxes. This office is just a cover for his covert business dealings. His real life is hidden inside an Airstream trailer locked inside a storage shed. His name, Christian Wolff, is also a front. He can hook his truck to his trailer and move on to a new place, with a new identity, in a matter of minutes. The only thing that ties him to the rest of the world is a computer-generated voice on the phone. Behind that voice is someone, or some thing, that monitors all his activities, arranges his schedule, retrieves information for him, and gives him wise, friendly advice.
In flashbacks, we see glimpses of Wolff's family, his brother, sister and his stern military father, who taught him and his brother toughness and drilled them in the use of guns and fighting. The mysterious phone voice informs Wolff of a new job offer, a forensic analysis of the financial accounts of a major manufacturer.
When Wolff arrives at the company, he finds another accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick of “Pitch Perfect”) asleep at a table, having worked all night preparing information for Wolff in the room he will be working in. Wolff and Dana are attracted to each other, but Wolff's autism makes it hard for him to express his feelings. Wolff uses practiced phrases and small talk in an attempt to appear more normal than he is.
Wolff quickly finds a problem in the company's accounts. Millions of dollars are being moved around in strange ways, such as in the purchase of non-existent goods. Suddenly, one of the company's executives dies in mysterious circumstances and Wolff is ordered to abandon the project. Soon, he discovers that another company executive has been murdered. Both he and Dana become targets. He rescues her from a mysterious assassin, played by Jon Bernthal of “Sicario” (and he is also wicked good as the Frank Castle character in the Netflix series “Daredevil” and “The Punisher”).
Wolff and Dana go on the run. They must solve the puzzle of who wants them dead, and why. The story folds back upon itself, like a Mobius strip, and all the seemingly unrelated pieces of the puzzle fit together neatly in the end, except for Wolff, who is still a man apart, figuratively, emotionally and literally. Looks to me like he is ready for another adventure.
This is a well-acted, written and directed film (directed by Gavin O'Connor of “Warrior”) with lots of action and a bit of humor too. I liked Affleck's ability to show his character's emotional awkwardness and frustration without overdoing it. Writer Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”) does a nice job of developing all these characters, particularly Wolff, King and Medina, but a number of other characters get some depth in this script. This film rates a B.
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