Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, John Hamm
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Rated: R for strong violence, some drug use and language
Movie Released: 2010
Ben Affleck’s character in The Town states, “I’m leaving this whole town in my rear view mirror.“ It seems as though Affleck has done the same over the years. A one time mega box office draw, people quickly became Afflecked out after the Gigli/Jersey Girl/Bennifer debacle. Affleck went from hero to zero and disappeared from the spot light. Affleck lovers all over the world (like my wife) were saddened that their beloved Ben seemed to settle down with Jennifer Garner and keep a low profile. Affleck began doing something he should have done long before. He started choosing his work wisely. Then after a critically acclaimed performance in Hollywoodland as George Reeves, he stepped behind the camera and directed his brother in a wonderful film called Gone Baby Gone. People took notice as Affleck seemed to have a gift behind the camera. Affleck made his return to the directors chair again in 2010 for a bank robber character study in a film called, The Town.
According to a fact made aware to me by a fictional movie, Boston is the bank robbery capital of the USA. Who knows if this is true but the film tells me it is, who am I to question it? A crew of locals have successfully robbed banks and armored cars for years and have found a way to do it undetected. Their smash and grab approach is carefully planned out with no details left out. The master mind is Doug McRay (Affleck) who has created a tight crew with his best friend, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner). When the FBI begins closing in on them and when Doug begins to fall for one of the victims of his crime spree he wants to call it quits. James however has different ideas and convinces them to pick up one more final job.
When it comes to originality this film lacks it. But for every weak point that it lacks, it makes up for in style. Affleck has found a way to take source material and project it on the screen in a visually pleasing way. The film flows well, and the true raw emotion of the characters seems to leap off the film. From the character study that is pouring out on screen to a simple landscape shot of Affleck’s beloved city of Boston, you can tell this was a film Affleck was passionate about. It’s obvious of Affleck’s love for the Boston area, and despite the film’s plot he really attempts to be Boston’s Woody Allen, almost creating a crime-twisted love story for the city he loves.
Acting wise we get a solid performance from Affleck as well, enhanced only more by a equally striking performance by Jeremy Renner. Renner, who was up for an Oscar for his performance in The Hurt Locker, brings that intensity that his characters have to work for Affleck’s flick as well. Renner plays the perfect co-hort to Affleck’s calculating character. Renner always wanting more and prone to be the brawn of the operation compliments Affleck’s “brains of the op” character very well. The two actors feed off each other and as a result we get two great characters in this film that you begin to care about.
However, John Hamm of Mad Men fame plays the FBI agent tracking down Affleck and friends. Hamm’s performance may have been ok, but the 2 dimensional character has little to offer. When he is on screen he is simply there to show that a little more pressure has been put on the robbers as they plan their next heist. Scenes with Hamm seem to have a different feel. They feel as though they are stylized Hollywood shots and not really a side story that Ben Affleck really wants to focus on as a director. As a result when compared to the film as a whole, Hamm’s scenes don’t feel as though they fit. Because of that his scenes kind of take you out of the film.
Bookending the beginning and end of the film with action sequences, The Town focuses on the characters behind the robbery and what makes them tick instead of being constant action. Because of that I have heard a few people that disliked the film and found it slow moving and boring. I on the other hand couldn’t disagree more. It’s nice to have a film that has action and at the same time has substance. I’m a guy who enjoys mindless fluff as much as the next guy, but every once in a while I would like to see a flick that can be entertaining on surface and intellectual level. I feel as though The Town is one of those films.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Town on DVD and check it out. I think you’ll be very surprised to find that Affleck really knows how to work a camera and direct in a way that can really bring a film to life. Even with a story that lacks originality Affleck was able to make a great Boston crime flick. I am excited to see what he comes up with next. It’s time to forgive Affleck for Gigli and appreciate the work he’s now doing.