Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Town review (sorry, I'm late)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall
Dir: Ben Affleck
Running time: 123 minutes

Gone Baby Gone
showed the world that Ben Affleck had a cinematic voice, The Town is showing the world that his cinematic voice is here to stay. With The Town, it is clear now that Ben Affleck is one of the hottest up-and-coming directors out there today. An established actor with a rather spotty track record, so far Ben Affleck is two-for-two in his directorial career and The Town is even stronger than his first film.

What more can you expect from Ben Affleck other than another solidly made Boston crime/drama? The Town is more of an actors' showcase than anything else. Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively... many memorable performances throughout this film, but none more memorable than Jeremy Renner's. We'll get to that later...

The plot of The Town is pretty straight-forward. Ben Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a native of Charlestown in Boston. Charlestown is the bank robbery capital of the US and Doug plays a large role in that. He and his band of criminals come up with sound, elaborate schemes on how to rob banks all over the city. They are disciplined, dangerous, and one of them is apparently a really good driver. What follows is three brilliantly shot action sequences: the bank robbery, the car chase, Fenway Park heist and in between is the touching romance that develops between Doug and his former hostage victim, Claire (although she has no idea that he was on the one who held her hostage).

The romance between Claire and Doug is approached surprisingly well and it really gives the movie a lot of depth and heart, especially for a genre film such as this one. There have been a couple of lame films that attempt to approach this genre and are utter failures (Takers, anyone?) and that just goes to show just how far ahead Ben Affleck is compared to other filmmakers. That he has both the acting and directing chops to pull this film off is a testament to the kind of talent he has. The only thing you can ask is... who knew?

Yes, this is one of those types of films you can watch over and over again whether it'd be via rental or on tv. You have the strong performances, you have the great action sequences, and you have the touching romantic scenes. You even have the nearly scene-stealing performance of Blake Lively whose character's backstory is almost as interesting as the rest of the film. But the real shining light in this film is Jeremy Renner.

Jeremy Renner really isn't much. He's not this huge bulky guy, yet he's intimidating as hell. His character in this film is completely fearless and unpredictable that can snap at any minute. Jeremy Renner pulls this character off to perfection and it seems abundantly clear to me that Jeremy Renner is one of the best working actors today.

That being said, this film isn't without its problems. It's a solid genre film, it does everything that it's supposed to be, but it doesn't really go outside its little box. There isn't much to take away from this film which keeps it from being a truly involving film. Also, Jon Hamm's character is too much of a square. Instead of being the ultimate badass like he is in Mad Men, Jon Hamm in The Town is as cool as a high school principal. While he plays his part very well, there really isn't much to him and by the end, you kind of look at him in a negative light. But why? Why is Ben Affleck forcing us to see the cops in this way and yet he and his thugs are looked at in an almost idolized way. The great thing about how Scorsese makes his gangster films is that he never romanticizes his anti-heroes whereas Ben Affleck does. Doug MacRay is very charming and smooth and Claire can't help but be drawn to him in some way. But, ultimately, the man is a very dangerous and violent criminal and the way Affleck romanticizes this character is very head-scratching.

Of course, that doesn't make the film any less than what it is, it's just what keeps The Town from really being a very effective film. Overall though, it's a sound film, it's very well made film, and I definitely recommend it. But don't expect it to be anything more than what it appears to be.

Rating: 8/10

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