Film Reviews


By • Sep 17th, 2010 •

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Affleck’s redemption. He emerges as a strong director with a vision. Let’s hope he doesn’t miss being a fawned-over movie star and goes right back to romantic comedy leading man roles.

I have relentlessly bitched about Ben Affleck. His too-long face, his god-awful movie choices and his ceaseless past fame-whore pursuit of GQ glamour. But with GONE, BABY, GONE and now THE TOWN, he shows a strong hand at high-tension directing, a fearless non-pretty boy part for himself, and a co-writing credit (alongside Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard) that displays sharp dialogue and complex characters. Affleck also allows co-stars Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner room to almost steal the movie from him.

As long as Affleck doesn’t want another try to usurp George Clooney-as-Clark Gable, he’s back and in great rough-edged form.

Career redemption. Affleck has done it by taking small roles and building a character actor resume. (Jennifer Aniston, take note. No one wants to see a 40-year-old looking for Mr. Right.)

Affleck’s career, up until recently, was thrust upon us. He has wisely re-fashioned himself as a working-class actor, building on his Irish-American Boston roots.

We are told that Charlestown is the mecca for bank robberies. It’s a family business passed from one generation to another. Doug MacRay (Affleck) is the brains behind a highly successful bank robbery and armored truck heists gang. But they never make any serious money – they are always going for the next heist!

What do these guys do with their money? They live like immigrants and pick up their clothes at the neighborhood Salvation Army store.

The gang is made up of several men including ex-con James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner). A childhood friend of MacRay’s, he spent nine years in prison taking the rap for MacRay. MacRay owes him. Coughlin is also the muscle for the gang – he’s got a very bad hair-trigger temper. Coughlin’s druggy sister, Krista (Blake Lively) is MacRay’s occasional hook-up, but he is not the father of her toddler – I think.

The gang owes the operational aspects of their work to florist Fergus Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), who must take a hefty cut of the proceeds. MacRay’s father, Stephen (Chris Cooper), in prison for life, used to work for Colm. MacRay is carrying around a bruising question – what happened to his mother? She left when he was a young child and no one has ever told him why or where she went. It has damaged him.

The gang’s latest bank robbery goes awry when Coughlin beats up a bank manager and takes the assistant manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), hostage. They let Claire go, but keep her driver’s license. She’s new to the neighborhood, but the guys are sure they might run into her around town.

FBI Special Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) is fed up with this gang and is determined to catch them using Claire. Coughlin wants to dispose of her, but MacRay decides to meet her “cute” and, taking a liking to her, they start dating. He wants to change his life but, quoting Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER: PART III: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”

Claire is such a good girl, I was surprised Affleck didn’t film her handing out blankets to the homeless.

According to Hollywood movies, the only way a woman can meet a guy is if she works in a flower shop, volunteers at a Boy’s Club of America, or has a parent in a nursing home. All others must put ads on Craigslist.

Coughlin wants to do one more big, big heist and MacRay doesn’t like the set-up but is forced by loyalty to Coughlin and threats by Colm. He decides to go for it knowing the gang is being shadowed by the FBI. What he really wants to do is run away with Claire.

That doesn’t make Kristy happy.

Affleck gives all his actors close-ups, but there is not one beauty shot in the lot. Hamm is terrific as the tough FBI agent on the case and he and Affleck have a memorable HEAT-like mano-a-mano scene. Affleck has done his heist-thriller research.

Affleck has also surrounded himself with a superior cinematic team. The choreographic mayhem, the editing, and the camera work are terrific. The car chases, gunplay, chaos, and police procedurals are first-rate.

Ben, you might very well eclipse Matt. Just stay away from Kevin Smith.

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