Monday, September 20, 2010

The Town - B+

In theaters. Rated R, 123 minutes. Trailer.

The Ben Affleck reboot is a success. As the writer, director and star, Big Ben follows up the excellent Gone Baby Gone with a film that firmly establishes him as a director. The film tells the story of Doug McCray (Affleck), an old school "townie" from the hard-scrabble Charlestown neighborhood in Boston. He leads a team of bank robbers on a series of heists and falls for a witness along the way. His nemesis in the FBI is Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm), an aggressive out of towner who is just ruthless enough to be effective. Click below for more on The Town:

The film opens with a well-staged bank robbery that ends up with a hostage (Rebecca Hall) being taken and let go unharmed. McCray is quickly shown to be the most mature and wise member of the group, with Jeremy Renner playing the loose cannon wild man. McCray grabs the task of watching Hall to make sure she isn't helping the FBI and accidentally on purpose starts a relationship with her under false pretenses. This creates tension among the team and gives Frawley the opening he needs to bring the thieves down.

The relationship between Renner and Affleck as well as the class issues with Hall are explored well, but not to great effect. I enjoyed everything about the film, but it fell short of the A- by a longshot. The shots of Boston are great but the story fails to resonate beyond being a simple parochial crime story. Blake Lively's character was clumsily edited out of the film (unfortunately), and McCray's back story doesn't get enough attention to render the conclusion all that meaningful. Others have raved about the Cooper/Affleck scene - I found it unmoving and disjointed at best. Hamm is truly awesome in his performance - I loved his portrayal of the rough and tumble Frawley.

The cast and crew of this film is top notch - Rebecca Hall, Pete Postlethwaite, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper, not to mention frequent Paul Thomas Anderson collaborators Dylan Tichenor (editor) and Robert Elswit (cinematography). The film is based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, which ultimately proves weaker source material than the Dennis Lehane novels set in Boston that have yielded better films (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River).

Gone Baby Gone's conclusion and realistic performances were so great it lifted it almost to an A- (I gave it the infamous B++). This is a good film I plan on buying and watching a lot even though it doesn't reach those same heights.

1 comment:

Priest said...

after further reflection i decided this was a B+ from me, not an A-. The ending is not particularly satisfying to me and i couldn't figure out why. Ultimately **spoiler alert** it's because the film wants to be both about redemption and allow affleck's character to escape without paying a price for the significant harm he's done society. I'm not sure you can have it both ways. Not in one film. But before the last ten minutes, great.