Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: The Town

Once upon a time, Ben Affleck was a basically unknown up-and-coming actor in Hollywood that just wrote a script with his buddy Matt about a mathematical genius in Boston that caught the industry by storm. The story was original and authentic and vaulted Affleck and Damon to new heights in fame, earning them an Academy Award for the screenplay of Good Will Hunting. Since that early win for each, their career paths have gone in opposite directions. Damon has stared in a slew of great movies and has been nominated for an Academy Award several times. Affleck has fallen victim to bad roles, wooden acting and films of such poor quality that they become their own punchlines (Gigli).

With Gone Baby Gone (Affleck's well-received major directorial debut), Ben has started to become relevant again in Hollywood. His latest venture, The Town, continues that uptick in his career trend line. Once again, set in Boston, The Town focuses on a group of townies that organize a ring of bank heists. One of the bank employees they kidnap early on (Rebecca Hall) eventually becomes emotionally involved with her kidnapper (Affleck) without knowing he's the one who did the deed. John Hamm (dude from Mad Men) plays a self-confident FBI agent that tries to press charges on the group of robbers. Jeremy Renner (fresh off his Academy Award nomination for The Hurt Locker) is brilliant as Affleck's right-hand man in the heist business. Blake Lively and Pete Postlethwaite round out the all-star cast in supporting roles.

The Town is very well directed by Affleck and you can tell he loves his native Boston area from the wide shots of Fenway Park and other landmarks. You see his character don different Boston Bruins and Red Sox jackets throughout. The pacing of the story and the intensity of the action makes it seem like Affleck has been doing this directing thing his whole career. Ben's acting is above average as well. He and the rest of the cast pull off some wicked stellar authentic Bah-sten accents. Despite the effort from Affleck, the real star of The Town is Renner. He plays the tough Boston street punk to a tee and makes you totally believe his character could go off at any time. The Hurt Locker was the launching pad for this guy and despite the late start to his career, I believe he will be one of the top actors in the business over the next 10 years (he turns 40 in January).

I enjoyed this movie but it was noway near a perfect film. The underlying romance between Affleck and Hall seems forced and totally unbelievable. The film's score is forgettable and there are scenes without music with soft dialogue that I actually started to fall asleep at times. There are several long expositions with some uninteresting content that bring the film down in sections. The story itself has been done before and is nothing groundbreaking. I also have to give negative points to the producers for titling this one "The Town." I can't think of a more generic unappealing name for a movie except for "The Movie." All in all though I do recommend The Town but you can probably wait for it on rental. 3.5 out of 5 JR's for this one and I hope Ben decides to take his next film out of the Boston area and stretch his range a little bit.

1 comment:

T. said...

I agree that it was good, not great - some of the story was really implausible (no moron would ever rob a bank in the North End and think they'd actually be able to make a getaway). I thought Ben did a great job, both behind the camera and in front of it, and the performances overall were fantastic (though Blake Lively annoyed the hell out of me). I maintain that the turning point for Ben's career was when he married Jennifer Garner. He started picking better roles (Hollywoodland - he was nominated for tons of awards, just not the Oscar..should have been though), and started directing. So glad to see Don Draper cast in a different role, as I am very afraid he is going to be typecast - and I have high, George Clooney-type hopes for that man :-) I also appreciated the fact that, unlike pretty much every other movie filmed in Boston these days, not every character HAD to have a Boston accent. Three out of four stars, on the basis of the directing, acting, Boston location, and fun car chase scenes.