Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Town - Movie Review


Starring Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper and Titus Welliver.
Directed by Ben Affleck.

Is it perfect? No. But it's the best bank-robbing procedural of the year. It pays homage to Heat without ripping it off, and Affleck's quickly establishing himself as one of the most interesting directors in Hollywood. He's doing for Massachusetts what Martin Scorsese did for New York. At least he's on his way.

Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a guy born and raised in Charlestown, a one-mile area in Boston that we're told has produced the highest per-capita amount of bank robbers in the Northeast. His mom disappeared when he was six, and his dad's doing a life sentence. So he was raised with the Coughlins, where we still see his best-friend brother figure Jem (The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner) and the sister Krista (Gossip Girl's Blake Lively), whose baby may or may not be Doug's.

The movie starts out with a bank heist, an intense well-choreographed kick-off, with Doug and his crew wearing skull masks. Jem decides to kidnap the assistant bank manager Claire (Vicky Cristina Barcelona's Rebecca Hall) just in case, and they leave her by the river. Turns out Claire just lives a few blocks from them, so Doug sets out to make sure she won't be able to recongize any of them, but especially so Jem won't decide to just "take care of her."

They bump into each other at a laundromat, and Doug takes a liking to Claire. He sees her regularly. This bank robber begins to wonder if he can finally get out of Charlestown and have a real crime-free life somewhere else.

Always circling though is FBI agent Adam Frawley (Mad Men's Jon Hamm). He didn't make me forget Tommy Lee Jones's Marshal Gerard, but he has two good scenes, one where he lets Doug know just how much he's going to enjoy taking him down, and another monologue where he surgically removes Krista's options until the last one is betrayal.

Affleck's a good actor, not great, and this is one of his best performances. (My fave of his is still Changing Lanes.) It's his directing, though, where he shines. I love the overhead shots of Boston, the authenticity of the atmosphere, the scenes where actors can breathe, especially each one Renner is in. He always has that hairtrigger edge to him, like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. The bank robbery, the second act armored-truck job, and the final heist are all well-done, in staging and suspense. The action here was more satisfying than anything in, say, Iron Man 2.

With ten movies as possibilities, I could see this sneaking in for a Best Picture nod.

P.S. To the guy who kept texting in front of me, you were rude, but thanks for at least finally getting up and leaving to finish the conversation after your third message.

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