It is fair to say, that when we think about a film about autism, we automatically think of "Rain Man," Barry Levinson's Oscar winning 1989 film starring Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt. In the film, Raymond was a human calculator but socially detached save for those precisely placed in his precise circle of inclusion.


That film set an unfortunate standard that suggested Raymond's behavior was the norm rather than the condition being multifaceted with several levels of functionality. Gavin O'Connor's latest film is the polar opposite of "Rain Man" as he casts Ben Affleck in a role that floats somewhere between entertaining and offensive.


The story was written by Bill Dubuque whose last film, "The Judge" also revolved around detached personal relationships. However, while that story had a smooth progressive flow, O'Connor chose to chop up the flow with flashbacks and three or four different character worlds. It dances between the past and the present, family and business, abilities and disabilities with such randomness it seems as though the director was confused himself.

Affleck is Christian Wolff, a math whiz accountant who has chosen to cook the books for various high end crooks. He is autistic, technically diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome - one of several once separate subtypes of autism. Away from his math abilities, he is socially and emotionally void.


Flashbacks to his childhood show us that his dad, got him involved in anti-bullying self defense when he was a child, explaining how he became a total bad ass very deft with arms. We also get a flashback with Wolff in prison relating to inmate Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor) about crime and stuff.


On his trail is a US Treasury type agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) who, in his own crooked way is out to get Wolff. His way is to sic field agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) on him using high pressure and a little blackmail. King is just a notch above the scum he's after.


In Wolff's third world is accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) who is a far-too-sweet honey who comes across numbers that don't match for her boss Lamar Black (John Lithgow). Black's company, a robotics firm, may be not on the up-and-up and Wolff is brought in to fix the books. But he his oddly smitten with Dana and develops an innate urge to protect her from impending danger.


The script bounces all over the place with just about everyone giving what seems like their own ad lib version of what they think their character should be. But you get a sense that they were so far removed from the story, while O'Connor focused on Affleck's less than inspired performance.


Indeed, with all the confusion, Affleck gives us a performance that reeks of the old "I got a paycheck" aroma. But perhaps he didn't quite understand his role either, clearly not as well as Hoffman understood Raymond Babbitt.


"The Accountant" tip-toes the line between creatively unique narrative and a stupidly offensive piece-o-crap as Ben Affleck pushes himself off as a socially awkward, romantically detached, autistic killing machine math whiz.   -- GEOFF BURTON