Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard (screenplay) Chuck Hogan (novel)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper
The Town might just be another cops and robbers tale honing Boston accents and boys with their big toy guns and cars; but then again, it might be something different, something with a little less Irish blood and brawn and a little more Ben Affleck brains.
Before Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck would have seemed like the most unlikely director. As an actor with little few roles worth remembering and as a celebrity who could have romanced a whole lot better than Jenifer Lopez, Affleck had relatively little for anyone to talk about. But as soon as his directorial debut was released in 2007, the film gained attention and respect as one of the best movies of the year, making Affleck the talk of tinsel town.
Three years later Affleck reprises himself as a director in The Town, a film he co-writes and stars in as Doug MacRay, the de facto leader of a bank robbing group that has a reputation for getting out clean but filthy rich. As Doug plots his last and final heist with ambitions of turning around his life from the crime ridden neighborhood and family which he belongs too, he is conflicted with his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his heists (Hall), dope smuggling ex-lovers (Lively), ambitious FBI agents (Hamm) and an adrenaline-addicted brother and partner in crime that can’t be controlled (Renner).
The ensemble of characters and actors not only sets up an interesting plot, but creates a dynamic web of relationships that drive the film along so that there is reason behind the chase scenes. Even though they are still quite minimal, it is a huge feat for a cop drama, especially the relationship with MacRay’s and his brother that risk compromising their success as well as their lives with their constant clashes.
Affleck’s hidden talent lies in his ability to pick the right people for his roles. In Gone Baby Gone it was the surprise performances by Amy Ryan and newcomer and little brother Casey Affleck who worked alongside an entire crew of carefully sharpened performers to create a crime drama that didn’t remind audiences of CSI or Law and Order. It isn’t any different with The Town, which pools the raw talents of Chris Cooper, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner for a real talent showcase.
Not a whole lot else changed from his first film. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. Stylistically, elements have remained on par with cinematography, production design and editing to make the picture look as expert and professional. Pans over the Boston skyline have never looked more surreal and intimate.
Don’t get too excited about the film, though, it is still a cop drama. It is still simple. It is still quite text book and formulaic. One thing that really pulls the trigger on this movie to separate itself is the heist scenes, which are some of the most clever, awe-inspiring and surprising scenes in recent cinema. It draws shock value similar to Nolan’s abilities in The Dark Knight.
Out of its countless surprises, The Town saves the best for last, which is proving that Ben Affleck, as a director, is not even close to done baby, done.
Certainly it feels like it’s been seen before (many times) but I did enjoy this film a lot. The weakest aspect, I thought, was the central romance between Doug and Claire which did not feel crucial and important enough given the fact that the story supposedly revolves around it.
Affleck puts his attention on both the action, and the characters, and it works out so well. He keeps it all entertaining, and most of all, keeps our eyes always glued.
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