The Town

Bad Boys of Charleston

         
 

17 September 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Ben Affleck is like Leonardo DiCaprio, he got better with age in front of the camera. As an ever-promising director, Affleck makes head-banging efforts to make the bank robberies in  The Town different from other larcenies we’ve seen, and he makes Boston his own degenerate cesspool. Double-crosses, twists, the binds (and snaps) of loyalty exceed expectations – it is more than a one-note crime movie. A few warts does keep the movie from becoming a total triumph, but it’s such a terrifically directed film it nevertheless earns its brass.

This is an actor’s showcase. Affleck feels rooted in his part as bank robber Doug MacRay, Jeremy Renner is his hothead cohort Jem ready to unload his weapon on innocent people if need-be, Blake Lively is heavy-mascara slut next door, Pete Postlethwaite is the florist who moonlights as the crime architect, Chris Cooper is the dad in a one-scene showstopper, and Jon Hamm is the FBI man who likes nabbing scumbags.

Hamm is the only refined character of the film. This is a fresh career move for the actor known for the award-winning TV series “Mad Men.” Hamm is a stiff, straight-arrow lawman, but while stiff sounds like a criticism, the approach benefits the film. He is rugged enough for the field, but a stiff no-nonsense interrogator. He even gets a few scenes where he’s coercive with the ladies.

At the core are these Boston bad boys led by Affleck and Renner. These are the kind of guys who get themselves into a brutal street scrimmage just to retain self-respect. The script has one shameless, far-fetched stretch: Rebecca Hall (just fine), as Claire, is abducted by the guys during the first robbery of the film, and when the guys learn from her driver’s license that she resides in Charlestown, their hometown, they want to surveillance her – only that during the tailing, Doug bumps into a consoling dialogue with her, and within a few scenes, falls for her. Once you suspend your disbelief with this development, you can accept the rest of the story.

Of course, Jem doesn’t like Doug’s involvement with Claire one bit. He is ready to rub her out if anything tangible spills to the FBI. Claire is the first normal, non-trashy, non-bad girl (Blake Lively is bad!) who has become a genuine romantic relationship in his life. Doug continues to set up and execute robberies while lying to Claire about his extracurricular activities. Will Claire ever find out that she is going with a man who held her at gunpoint? “I was never going to hurt you,” he says.

The guys start taking swings at each other and the grudges turn into suspicions about who will sell out whom. Doug wants out of the business but the livelihood of others becomes threatened so he has to stick with it. This leads to the final big score robbery, cleverly assembled with bravado. The ads promised robbers in nun masks, but what’s neat is how the costumes change each time, and how much tougher these guys get on the bystanders. The final shootout is a real viciously charged street battle, although, one wishes that guys with double-barrel shotguns didn’t miss from ten feet away.

The cameras burst all over the place in the big action scenes, covering a lot of spontaneous, anything-can-happen trajectory. The action climax relishes with big nuts, it’s ballsy. We can’t help but cheer for these guys going headlong into a serpent’s nest to snatch moneybags held under high security.

Committed to artistic integrity, Affleck is so good that he nearly gets us to forget his career garbage like “Pearl Harbor” and “Daredevil.” He has become a real legitimate director coming off the heels of his debut “Gone Baby Gone.” But on-screen he’s credible. Maybe the permanent 5 o’clock shadow is working for him, or maybe it’s his Nike leather jacket. On a double bill, “The Town” should be the opening act and “The Departed” should be the main event. That sounds like a sliding remark but it’s really a major compliment.

125 Minutes. Rated R.

SUSPENSE-THRILLER / CHARACTER STUDY / WEEKEND THRILLS

Film Cousins: “Straight Time” (1978); “Heat” (1995); “The Departed” (2006); “Public Enemies” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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