Genre: Drama, Thriller
Country: United States
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite, Owen Burke
Director: Ben Affleck
Run time: 124 minutes
Just trying to get in as many reviews of Oscar-nominated movies as I can before the awards here…and The Town is up for one – Best Supporting Actor for Jeremy Renner. It’s a weak nomination, although Renner is very good here – but I think it’s more about carry-over from the incredibly successful The Hurt Locker last year, which won six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, as well as scoring a Best Actor nomination for Renner (an award that went to Jeff Bridges).
At any rate, The Town is an immensely entertaining, if flawed, motion picture from director and star Ben Affleck. Affleck is a decent actor, but he is a better writer (Good Will Hunting) and director (Gone Baby Gone) than he is an actor. In my review of Gone Baby Gone, I suggested that the best movie writer/director Affleck made was in NOT casting himself. Instead, he cast his younger brother Casey, and the result was magic.
And now, with The Town, I feel that the biggest mistake Affleck DID make here was in casting himself. Renner is fantastic, Blake Lively is terrific, Rebecca Hall is very good, but Affleck, the star and centre of the movie, is passable at best. I just don’t believe this guy as a bank robber, a lover, a nice guy OR a tough guy. And certainly not all four at once.
Once again, Affleck has set his movie in Boston. In this case, a specific neighbourhood in Boston that apparently produces bank robbers the way Compton apparently produces gangsta rappers. Affleck plays Doug, the leader of a team of bank robbers who are like a surrogate family to him. Jem (Renner) is his #2, almost a brother to him, even though Affleck is apparently very nice and kind and warm-hearted and Renner is vicious and angry and ruthless.
After a particularly difficult hold-up, the gang takes bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage, then dumps her away from town without ever taking off their masks. Soon, they discover that Claire lives in their neck of the woods, and begin to wonder whether she might be able to identify them. So Doug begins to stalk her, eventually showing up at the same laundromat to test the theory. Theoretically, I suppose, if she recognized him, he would have…what? Pulled out a gun and blown her away? In front of her own laundry?
But she doesn’t recognize him, so he goes to Plan B. He decides to date her. This stands to reason, as no one has ever gone to a laundromat in a movie, in history, without coming out with a girlfriend. And so Doug and Claire begin to date, and he can never tell her who he really is, and she is traumatized from the holdup, and Jem is increasingly angry and suspicious of the whole situation. And then the cops start sniffing around.
Of course, the movie boils down to the One Last Job the crew has to do so Affleck can leave the town and be done with his life of crime. Which means he has to tell his girl and hope she will join him and not stab him. And it also means he has to extricate himself from this family-crew he has, a crew that will be bank robbers for life and really, really seem to want to drag him down with them.
Renner is terrific here as the loyal-to-a-fault nutcase, the man to whom violence and robbery is not just a means to an end, but is bred in the bone. Although it’s Doug who comes from a long line of professional bank robbers, it’s Jem who not only can’t but never wants to quit the life. Complicating things is Jem’s sister Krista (a fantastic Lively) who may or may not have had a child with Doug.
The story is pretty familiar, but written well enough that no scene seems obvious. The acting is, for the most part, top-notch. And the pacing, the backdrop and the settings are all superb, thanks to some great direction from Affleck. The only probelm I have is Affleck himself, who seems to think that just showing up is enough to make his character believable. It isn’t. Hall is believable. Lively is outstanding. Renner is great. Affleck is weak, and makes this movie a little less than classic.