Monday, October 25, 2010

The Town, a nice place to see but a bad place to be.

Ben Affleck is certainly not anywhere near my favourite actors list, so when it was suggested that I go to see his latest movie I initially said no, but only because I’d not heard of it and I presumed it was his usual turgid shit. You know the kind; something along the lines of him falling in love with Sandra Bullock or someone playing someone dying of a rare disease but she showed him how to embrace his humanity or something equally “entertaining”. Then it was explained that Affleck was a bank robber along with the excellent Jeremy The Hurt Locker Renner and they’d be taking part in Heat-style shootouts with cops during their bank raids. Then later, I discovered that Affleck had actually directed it and while not my cup of tea, his work on Gone Baby Gone seemed to have been well received. These revelations coupled with a viewing of the trailer successfully changed my mind and the resulting viewing of The Town has forever altered my perception of Ben Affleck, perhaps not as an actor but as a competent and more than adequate dramatic director.

Overall, The Town seemed like a very ambitious project for him, but I’ll be the first to say this stint as a director has produced results I’d have previously reserved for Roger Donaldson or Dominic Sena. His action scenes, while not Micheal Mann by any means, were still perfectly judged, choreographed, lit and shot and it’s not every director, even every action-movie director that can pull that off so flawlessly with such little experience. Affleck did fall into the trap of making himself the star which is not a conceit, but a judgement of what he can do and foreknowledge of the project and it frankly is probably a better idea for an actor without extensive directing experience to do. In the hope that Affleck’s directing career is as least as successful as Sly Stallone’s; eventually Affleck could direct something and allow a superior actor to take some of the limelight as Stallone did with Jason Statham in the sublime masterpiece of action - The Expendables.

While he never brings anything more then the acting chops of a mildly retarded Keanu Reeves to the front of the camera, Affleck's judgement behind it made up for his woeful acting. He added in a pretty good cast to round off this entertaining movie. These included the aforementioned Jeremy Renner who did a brilliant take on the slightly psychotic friend-since-childhood who Affleck is indebted to. Mad Men’s John Hamm as a slightly assholeish and a-bit-incompetent FBI Agent that of course helps “glorify” the nefarious actions of the thieves to some extent. Rebecca The Prestige Hall played the panicked bank manager in a role that sadly lost touch with reality partway through the movie. Rounding out the cast were Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite both looking seriously haggard since I last laid eyes on them and make you hope there’s serious make-up involved in their current appearance.

The story wasn’t too revolutionary. A new take on the bank robbers who have outwitted and escaped the cops who know who committed the crime and have no evidence to convict so are just waiting for a screw up. What makes this different is that our protagonist falls for the assistant manager of a bank they rob and is prepared to leave his life of crime, his family of thieves and neer-do-wells to go build a life with her instead, after one last job of course.

Final Verdict: Affleck is well on the way to becoming an accomplished director and his effort here is remarkable enough that he should consider focusing on it from now on. The movie is quite entertaining if not in any way spectacular. Very realistic shootouts but they're too few and the fluff between them is at times too yawnworthy to warrant a higher rating. A step in the right direction and certainly worth a look.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2

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