Sunday, October 10, 2010
Displaying a true love of his Boston roots, Ben Affleck directs, acts, and co-writes The Town, a heist drama set in the gentrifying suburb Charlestown. Orchestrated by "The Florist" (Pete Postlethwaite), a group of men take on risky bank robberies throughout the city. One of them, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), strays from the pack, falling in love with the manager (Rebecca Hall) of a bank they violently robbed. His affair and desire to leave a life of crime creates tension with longtime friend and cohort "Jem" (Jeremy Renner). Meanwhile FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) tries to nab Doug and his crew.
The film works best with the tense, slam-bam action scenes (expertly edited by Dylan Tichenor) but falls flat when centered on Doug's character. Affleck isn't a strong enough thespian to pull off such a complicated person. His courtship of Hall (after aiming AK 47s at her, kidnapping her and making her think she was going to die) is more creepy than touching (though the film strives for this, particularly in a gooey final act). Their relationship often strains credulity. It might have been a better picture had Affleck traded places with Renner. The electrifying Hurt Locker star infuses life into a thankless role. Between the elaborate, noisy heists, the script attempts a back story for Doug. A jail/telephone scene with Chris Cooper as Doug's father and a monologue where an expressionless Affleck describes his mother abandoning him--whilst in "Underoos"--are particularly unmoving. The Town boasts a great supporting cast but their parts are so underwritten they seem like throwaways. Blake Lively does her best to shed glossy Gossip Girl character as Jem's drug addicted sister, but really, her scenes could have been cut without much effect on the film except making it snappier. And Jon Hamm really needs a part where he can display some range. In Howl, we have Don Draper, the lawyer. In The Town, Don Draper, the FBI agent. Lovers of crime pictures may like this one more than I did (it's a box office hit with rave reviews to boot) but with such a flat actor at the helm, I found it particularly lacking in emotional resonance, especially when compared to morally ambiguous Bostonian films in similar vein: the shattering Departed and Eastwood's Mystic River. **