Becoming a Townie

Now, Ben, I'd really like to help you revive your career. What can I do for you?

The Town is one of those rare mainstream Hollywood movies where it seems the stars have aligned for all involved, including an audience desperate for some A-list entertainment.  Writer/director Ben Affleck is back in Boston with some street cred after his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, proved he had some talent behind the camera and his Oscar win for screenwriting was no fluke.  Here he takes his gamble one step further by casting himself as the star, and he does a decent enough job with the role, not surprisingly giving himself all the best angles and never demands too much of himself while he’s clearly playing on home turf in this Charlestown crime drama.   

As a director, he’s smart enough to line up a great supporting cast.  Jeremy Renner (fresh from an Oscar nod for The Hurt Locker) chews the scenery well as Affleck’s best bud and trigger-happy bank-robbing partner.  Indie darling and chameleon-like actress du jour Rebecca Hall makes the most of her role as a hostage-turned-love-interest for Mr. Affleck and seems primed now for her first big commercial hit.  Meanwhile, as the FBI agent looking to bring the crime ring crashing down, Emmy-winning “madman” Jon Hamm, executes all the best lines with the same cool-as-a-cucumber Don Draper bravado one would hope to see on the big screen.  Then there’s the lovely and tarted-up former TV-star Blake Lively, proving she can do serious work and has a bright future ahead.  Lastly, veteran character actors Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite are on hand to read their lines with menace, melancholy and vigor.   

It all makes for a gripping two hours.  Using the award-winning crime novel, Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, as his backdrop, Affleck milks his hometown setting for all its worth (I like how they worked in Fenway Park at the end), once again clearly defining a place and a “character” that focuses on crime and people “caught up” in a way of life, but with humanistic overtones that normally evade this generation’s cold, self-aware crime flicks.  There are some great action set pieces (including a daring car chase through Boston’s tight-cornered old town streets), but there’s also heart and solid character development that allows you to invest in the fates of the people involved in the heist and not just the slick mechanics of the clichéd cat-and-mouse games.   

The Town is far from perfect.  There are scenes that drag, some of the dialogue between Hall and Affleck could’ve been tighter and more natural, and there’s a few editing and framing techniques Affleck seems to have borrowed from Brian De Palma that don’t add anything to the story.  Although some are claiming Affleck is attempting to do for Boston what Scorsese did for New York, let’s just clear the air and agree that Affleck is no Scorsese.  He is a pretty good storyteller, though.  And though it falls just shy of greatness, The Town is a damn good film.    

Solid.    

Authenticious as one of the townies might say.   

 Written by David H. Schleicher   

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6 comments on “Becoming a Townie

  1. John Greco says:

    Good to hear the nice words about this film. I liked his first film very much and was hoping this would not be a disappointment. I will be seeing this on Sunday!

    John, Affleck is a terminally likable fellow (despite some really bad movies in the past), and that desire to “root for him” translates really well here. He’s also a good screenwriter when he’s coming from the heart and telling stories about his hometown. I look forward to your thoughts on the film! –DHS

  2. dianneglave says:

    Had it mind to try to get to a late afternoon movie. Didn’t make it but have this one on my list to watch. Thanks for the review. D.

    Dianne – dare I say it’s a must see compared to what else is out right now. –DHS

  3. Sam Juliano says:

    “The Town is far from perfect. There are scenes that drag, some of the dialogue between Hall and Affleck could’ve been tighter and more natural, and there’s a few editing and framing techniques Affleck seems to have borrowed from Brian De Palma that don’t add anything to the story.”

    The dialogue was frankly awful, and the film wore out his welcome well before the action pyrotechnics. Those action set piece were certainly well choreographed, but in the end the film was deja vu all over again.

    I respect your position of course, especially as it’s an extreme majority position. I like Affleck’s first film far more.

    Sam, I think Gone Baby Gone is a better film as well…deeper, darker, subversive. But as mainstream crime dramas go, this was highly entertaining in my book and I thought the dialogue worked except for a few of the Affleck-Hall scenes. –DHS

  4. John Greco says:

    Well, I think Sam was a little hard on this film. Yes, GONE, BABY, GONE is a better film, and deeper, but I found this to be a lean, somewhat brutal and efficient film when focusing on the robberies though it gets a bit bogged down and loses its direction when it shifts to the romance between Doug and Claire. I’m sure Yankees fans will enjoy the shoot out and destruction at Fenway Park (lol) though I found that entire sequence a little over the top destroying much of the realism and credibility that proceeded.

    John, I agree with you. There were a few things (besides just the Fenway Park scene) that strained credibility…but is was all in the name of solid entertainment. –DHS

  5. Prakash says:

    The Town hasn’t released here (India) yet but I was curious to know how good it is before I watch it. And your review is very informative and helps me make a good decision on whether I should watch it or not. I think I will 🙂

    I haven’t seen Gone Baby Gone but I did watch Good Will Hunting and was pretty impressed.

    Prakash, it’s a pretty solid two hours at the cinema. Nothing revolutionary – but very very good. –DHS

  6. very nice review! I agree with you on every point except Jon Hamm! hahaha. Interstingly enough. I am curious what you thought about certain holes in the storytelling…but for sake of spoiling anything for readers I won’t list them here. But I sure am interested in what you might say. Email me? scarletsp1der@yahoo.com

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