Following his directorial debut, 2007’s compelling Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck delivers a wonderfully gritty, action-packed crime drama. Delving a bit deeper into the seedy side of life in Boston, The Town embeds us in the world of career criminals, the FBI agents tasked with hunting them down, and the people caught in the fray. This time around Affleck works double duty, directing and starring in the film.
The action is centered around the Charlestown area of Boston, alleged to be the bank robbery capital of America. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a thief who has grown weary of his life of crime and all the ties that bind him to it, particularly his ties to the Coughlin family: James Coughlin(Jeremy Renner), his tempestuously unpredictable lifelong friend, and Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively), James’ sister and Doug’s pitiful would-be girlfriend.Despite his reservations, Doug continues with his life of crime, which is further complicated by his romantic involvement with Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a bank manager and potential witness to one of his heists. With his father (Chris Cooper) already in prison for life and FBI agent Adam Crawley (Jon Hamm) doggedly pursuing him, Doug decides to escape his life of crime before he winds up like his father, or worse, but things are never that easy.
AS: So… what was the last really good Ben Affleck movie? That he starred in, not directed, though I did really like Gone Baby Gone.
BP: Ummm… is this a trick question?
AS: Weren’t you the one who just went on and on about how much you like Forces of Nature?
AS: Way to back-peddle… you don’t have to defend your love of Forces of Nature. You’re among friends.
AS: Ooh! Sum of All Fears… there we go… really good. Though, I am an Affleck fanboy. (Editor’s note: State of Play is also pretty good.)
BP: So, I think what you are getting around to is that The Town, while not only a solid crime/drama, is one of Ben Affleck’s best performances ever.
AS: Yeah. And as an Affleck fanboy, it’s nice to see him back in front of the camera… and as a fan of Gone Baby Gone, I don’t mind that he’s behind the camera too. I think his performance in The Town is one of his best, up there with Chasing Amy and Dogma…
BP: Right up there and with so much crap on your resume judging such a thing is pretty easy.
AS: Yeah… well… you never sat through Reindeer Games…
BP: And I don’t think I will. Everything in The Town is solid, all around, just like you said with Gone Baby Gone. It is a little derivative but not in a bad way.
AS: Derivative of Gone Baby Gone?
BP: Derivative of lots of other films…The Departed, Friends of Eddie Coyle, Heat (lots from Heat).
BP: Like – hey, I tried to be like these other good films and while I’m not as great as them, I didn’t fail either. Though, I think some of the straight dialogue scenes didn’t pop as much (or lacked something compared to the stellar action pieces). And I felt like punching Blake Lively in the face every time I saw her.
AS: Yeah, I think that was part of the character… but I’m not sure… I don’t think I’ve seen Blake Lively in anything else.
BP: Let’s hope for her sake it was “acting.”
AS: Which dialogue scenes?
BP: Let me clarify first. The dialogue was good, just that some of the scenes were filmed and staged in a way that was a little flat
AS: Ok, yeah… I guess I can see that.
BP: The acting would make up for it, but some scenes took a little bit longer than others to find a groove. But I will say, the clear standout performance was from Jeremy Renner, following up his Oscar-nominated turn in The Hurt Locker.
AS: Idunno… did his performance make you want to punch him in the face every time he was on-screen?
BP: No he made me want to see a prequel starring his character. And he did it with little screen time, Just a lot of intensity when he was on-screen.
AS: Yeah… he was pretty amazingly bad ass… Seriously… this isn’t even a quibble, this is just us agreeing with each other.
AS: Wow… I’d say, “Watch your back, Serpico.”
BP: No, you’re supposed to say, “What are you smoking, Bryan? Jon Hamm belongs in every movie and every show spreading all of his Jon Hamm goodness all over everything.”
AS: Dude, I don’t need to know where you want Jon Hamm to spread his “goodness”… more than that, I don’t want to know.
AS: *shudder* I feel dirty.
BP: But you put that photo up anyways… sinner.
AS: I don’t know what my being a sinner has to do with anything, but whatever.
BP: Well, where were we? Oh yeah, solid action/crime/drama film with fine acting all around and a welcome continuation of Affleck the director. My grade: B.
AS: Are we done already? I guess that’s what happens when we agree.
BP: No shame in brevity.
AS: You should always be ashamed… especially when it comes to length… ZING!
BP: Is this what we do when we have little to argue over… start making dirty jokes?
AS: Must you ask questions you already know the answer to? Yes, I agree: The Town is a solid action/crime/drama with some very nice hints of Heat, Ronin and The Departed. Affleck is showing that he has the makings of a great director. And again, I’m always happy to see him on the big screen. Jeremy Renner is quite good and The Town is a very nice follow-up to The Hurt Locker…
BP: I would like to say that, although The Town is a serviceable title (and way better than the title of the novel on which it’s based: Prince of Thieves) I would have loved it had it been called “Charlestown.”
AS: I didn’t like the title at first, but after watching the film, I was ok with the title. But yeah, I think “Charlestown” would’ve made a much better title.
BP: It just sounds cooler, but I guess they thought it was too colonial or maybe people would confuse it with Charleston Chew.
AS: That’s a stretch… no pun intended.
BP: You’re on fire today.
AS: These things happen.
BP: Why do I feel you’re about to give the movie an A?
AS: I’m still debating… so I’m gonna kill time and mention how much I like Rebecca Hall. There’s something about her, she seems to always be emoting… every time she’s on camera… instead of “always be closing,” it’s always be emoting… she’s like a human emoticon.
BP: Oh, she’s good, and a rising star. The Prestige was the first time I noticed her.
AS: Right, and I loved/love her in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
BP: The pre-hype was all about Scarlett and even Piper but I walked out asking who that one girl was and yeah Vicky, she’s great and very good but underused in Frost/Nixon.
BP: I predict big things for that one.
AS: Now I wanna go watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona… or The Town, again.
BP: And The Prestige (which is better each time since I’m more prepared for all the sci-fi elements).
AS: And even though you wanted to punch Blake Lively in the face every time she was on the screen, I think she was great as the coked-out, train-wreck townie… definitely not a lady… every inch a wench.
BP: I suppose
AS: Ok… so I’ve debated and I’m gonna give The Town a B+. Could’ve used some more Renner.
BP: I think everything could use more of him at this point.
AS: Also, Pete Postlethwaite was awesome as Fergie the florist.
BP: And even though it seems self-serving (but necessary), Affleck did cast himself in a role with Lively’s boobs in his face, a sex scene with Hall, and some scenes showing off his own body.
AS: You’re just mad cause you didn’t get to see Jon’s Hamm. I know what you want, you and you’re “self-serving.”
BP: Without cable, I didn’t get my Mad Men (Hamm) fix this week. I’m having cold sweats.