Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movie Review - The Town

The Town - ***1/2

Directed by:  Ben Affleck

Starring:  Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper

Review:  I really can't believe I'm saying this but Ben Affleck may be on his way to be a pretty decent director. Enough so, in fact, that I would say it would be a better career move for Affleck to put his acting career on the back burner and concentrate on directing. Admittedly, I never saw "Gone, Baby Gone," but I heard all good things and this movie was much better than I thought it would be. I don't know what it is about the Boston projects that makes for compelling drama, but it does. "The Departed" opened up this world that would have made "Boondock Saints" more successful today, That's why my expectations were a little tempered going into this movie, it felt like it might just be a "Departed" rip off. Good for all of us, it wasn't.

"The Town" involves a group of bank robbers in an area of Boston called Charlestown. Charlestown is one of those places that sucks people in to such a great extent that it ceases to become where they're from and becomes who they are. These people don't just identify themselves as being from there but they define themselves in this manner. This is where residents of this area can get into trouble. A place like Charlestown has a blue collar attitude where you do what you have to do to survive. Sometimes what you have to do is less than desireable, but you find yourself in so deep you can't stop. That's what this movie is about, getting sucked into this position and realizing at some point that you can fight your way out, you don't have to lay down to the "The Town."

Thats what this movie is concerned with, the journey of the central character Doug Macray (Ben Affleck). Doug is constantly dealing with Charlestown pulling him back into it's cesspool. There is always another bank to rob, there is always one more friend you still owe a favor to, and there is always a girl who keeps trying to keep you around. Doug wants to leave the whole city behind and go with his new girlfriend Claire, who it turns out may be the only one that could be the undoing of Doug and his bank robbing crew.

However, Doug's best friend took the rap for him years earlier and Doug still feels like he owes him. An old flame of Doug's Krista (Blake LIvely who gives probably the best performance of the movie in a supporting role) tries to guilt Doug into staying by saying she wants to change her life just like he does and that she needs him to help with her daughter (who may even be his from their previous relationship). All this is working against Doug to in his attempt to leave and start anew. Oh yeah, and there is a ton of heat related to their most recent bank robbery that threatens to put him and his friends away for a long time. "This could cost you 30 to life" they keep reminding each other. This type of phrase has ingrained itself into the Charlestown lexicon as this is how things are measured. How long are you gonna be away from "the town" if you get pinched. That seems to be all anyone cares about, which is why Doug wants to get out.

After getting sucked into "one more" bank robbery Doug's plan to get out get complicated, especially when his girlfriend finds out he is a bank robber and knowing she could turn him in. It's a tough spot to be in but Doug puts the plan in motion to get out once the job is completed. That's where I will stop as I don't want to spoil the rest for those of you who want to see the movie.

As mentioned earlier, Affleck's directing leads one to believe he has the skills to eventually become a quality director. There are some very well directed scenes of remarkable tension, with the most tense scene being where Doug's new girlfriend is on the verge of finding out Doug is a bank robber but Doug calmly handles the situation.  There is great filmmaking there. He also was able to get some very solid performances from his supporting cast. Chris Cooper has a very good performance in a very short supporting role as Doug's father, as well as Jeremy Renner playing a great role as Doug's best friend and hot head.

However, the best performance of the film goes to Blake Lively as Doug's old flame Krista who is fully corrupted by Chralestown.  Krisa has succumbed to drug abuse even though she is still trying to raise a young daughter and is continually on the lookout for that man who can come sweep her away from it all (or at least make her forget about the rest of it for a night). Her performance that shows someone who is so hopeless and so subdued by this town that she has given up all hope and only wishes for that man to come along and take her away, is Academy Award worthy.

The only part where the movie fell flat for me was the love story. Doug and his girlfriend have an extremely short courting period and these two people from different sides of the track have no problem quitting their jobs and agreeing to leave with one another. I suppose this is just something that has to be in fastforward since it's only a two hour movie, but still, it just didn't feel right and felt forced. That being said, this movie is definitely worth your time.

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