The first time we see Chris, he's a twitchy kid (played by Seth Lee) working on a jigsaw puzzle in a neurologist's waiting room, while inside his parents are receiving an explanation for all of his weird tics: the rocking; the blowing on his fingertips; the obsessive, savant-like desire to organize everything according to patterns only he can see. Flash forward years later, and the standoffish kid who was hysterical over a missing puzzle piece has become a strip-mall tax consultant (now played by Ben Affleck) helping local farmers maximize their deductions. He's more gifted than his humble station suggests, however, and a hot new tech start-up led by philanthropic roboticist Lamar Black (John Lithgow) hires him to go through the books and find out whether a discrepancy spotted by a chitchatty junior accountant (Anna Kendrick) is a bellwether for a larger money bleed. Jigsaw puzzles or financial ledgers, they're all the same to Chris -- but when the company cuts his fine-toothed investigation short once they've seen enough, he refuses to drop the case before it's all figured out. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department is on the trail of a mysterious figure nicknamed "the Accountant" -- a brilliant financial forensicist hired by criminal organizations to ferret out revenue leaks without attracting the law. The Accountant is slippery, skilled at combat, and preternaturally gifted with numbers, and he covers his tracks impeccably -- until novice Treasury analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), working with Treasury director Ray King (J.K. Simmons), pecks the first small crack in his elaborate array of disposable identities when she realizes that the aliases "Carl Gauss," "Louis Carroll," and "Christian Wolff" share something in common. It's fashionable to pile on Ben Affleck, an activity that has been film criticism's favorite all-season sport for more than two decades, but with The Accountant he reminds us once again that he is a genuine talent. He delivers an authentic portrayal of an autistic character who's more Batman than Rain Man, a grim stuffed shirt who must reference a placard of emoticons to puzzle out what people's facial expressions mean, who wears Sriracha and Evel Knievel t-shirts on his day off, and who unwinds at the end of the workday with a ritual that's equal parts shiatsu and Abu Ghraib. Affleck is also surrounded by such great actors as Lithgow, Simmons, and Jean Smart, in a continuation of 2016's refreshing trend of casting the net wide for worthy yet almost forgotten older talent. The main hiccup with The Accountant is that so much of its plot is moved forward by exposition and flashbacks. Every scene has a dumbfounded onlooker mouthing the kind of say-nothing lines that get 86-ed by screenwriting professors in freshman year: "What is this?"; "Who are you?"; "How do you know this?"; "Why do you have that?" There's no pleasure in watching a fascinating character like "The Accountant" be stymied by comparative dummies. What is otherwise an interesting blend of action thriller and character study ends up with the same problem as Breach (2007), the dramatization of the Robert Hanssen FBI scandal, in which the shrewd and fascinating baddie played by always-a-treat Chris Cooper was more interesting than the bore of a protagonist assigned to tail him. (It also doesn't help that The Accountant's grand, dun-DUUUN revelation at the climax about the true identity of a key character is so obvious as to be anticlimactic.) The movie's quirks are tantalizing, and while the end result is flawed, getting there is satisfying enough that you'll want to see if novice screenwriter Bill Dubuque does better the next time out. See your task to completion, Dubuque.