Warner Bros. 2 hours 8 minutes R
It’s like a puzzle with lots of pieces. You have to pay attention or you won’t be able to keep up with what’s going on until the very end of the film. Director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle) and Writer Bill Dubuque (The Judge) say they worked hard to make this film a thriller like others they’ve seen that give all the answers in the first 10 minutes.
It’s about a high functioning autistic child whose parents don’t really know what to do with him. He is a mathematical genius. Chris Wolff (Ben Affleck) is this complicated character who, as a grownup, learns to use his numbers skills to cook the books for some very scary criminal organizations including drug cartels and the mafia. He learned the ins and outs from Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor), an accountant who got caught and shows Chris the ropes while they’re together in a detention center.
Chris looks and acts like the nerdiest, most reserved CPA, but that’s a front. When the Feds start to get wise to his game, he tries throwing them off by getting hired by a legit electronics business. Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) is a company accountant who found millions missing and was ordered to figure out how and why by company executive, Lamar Black, (John Lithgow) so he can take the company public. But there’s more to that story. Good shot of the board room with the numbers all over the windows and walls.
Cummings is apprehensive of having this strange, soft-spoken weirdo come onto her turf, but they find middle ground. There’s no romance here, but it becomes a case of mutual respect for both working with numbers. Kendrick’s character also provides some levity to lighten the intensity of the film and make Chris appear more human. Turns out he’s more than capable of taking care of himself. His guns, both physical and high powered weapons, are fully loaded. Affleck says this was new ground for him because he’s not the quiet type and doesn’t talk much in this film. Here, he’s very low key.
But when Cummings is followed into her apartment by a gang of thugs, Chris is there to take them on in action scenes that redecorate her apartment with destruction. She’s no slouch either and we’re glad O’Connor gave her a chance to show what she could do in an action scene, too. Kendrick says the director is such a dude who gets excited by action, guns and toys, but says he also has respect for the relationship between Chris and Dana. There are few movies that explain the traits of high functioning autism in such a sensitive way.
Cummings finds out that Ben is really living a double life. She finds the guns, money and priceless artwork she never thought he’d be into. We also learn how he got to be so tough. His military father dealt with the autism by putting Chris and his brother through rigorous physical training. It’s painful to watch.
While this is going on, Deputy Director of theTreasury (J.K. Simmons) enlists Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Arrow, Chicago Med) into helping him crack a crime organization he’s tried to track down forever. He wants to bring in the bacon before he retires and coerces Medina into getting the job done. We get more about her past, too.
Affleck, as Chris, is able to hold his own fighting thugs who come after him, including John Bernthal, as Brax, leader of one of the criminal organizations. Bernthal, a former boxer, taught Affleck a few moves. Affleck says if he didn’t get a block in low enough, Bernthal’s punch would make him feel it for real.
Chris is soft-spoken, deliberate, polite and it’s weird to see Batman take a lot of pressure before he explodes. Interesting also that Affleck and J.K. Simmons are going to be in two more films together as Batman and Commissioner Gordon in Justice League and The Batman.
Affleck and Kendrick are cute together as she discovers more about him. She’s curiously innocent and he is very reserved. Affleck says in a normal film, this would have been a romantic pairing, but not here.
This is a film about autism, corporate finance and criminal organizations cooking the books. There are government investigations along with a high body count. The characters are very different and well developed. You get to know these people and their motives in detail. Sometimes there’s too much going on. Pay close attention to the threads and the flashbacks provide background for what makes these characters tick. Wait for the surprise piece of the puzzle at the end that makes it all add up.