Saturday, September 25, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Town

The Town
Directed by Ben Affleck
Release September 17, 2010

The title “The Town” refers to Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston where the residents speak in thick Boston accents and seem to own nothing but paraphernalia supporting all their favorite sports teams. It also happens, as the opening titles of the film explain, that Charlestown is home to a staggering amount of bank robbers. Four childhood friends almost have no choice but to enter the family business, and the neighborhood is so infused with criminals that the bank robbers take a woman hostage who just happens to live only four blocks away from their own home.

A film that uses such a coincidence-based device also takes certain liberties in presuming the state of affairs in Charlestown, that the FBI is constantly on the tail of these bank robbers, knowing full well their identities but unable to prove their complicity with actionable evidence. It's a trope familiar from something like "The Sopranos," which predictably leads to plenty of stonewalling and tough talk from the thieves. The dialogue is extraordinarily dull and tired, and it's hard to develop sympathy or affection for any of these characters, and none of them are despicable enough to garner awe and admiration, with the possible exception of Jermey Renner's bad boy, who milks a few laughs throughout the course of the film.

“The Town” doesn’t possess the same energy, darkness, and quality as Affleck’s directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone,” did. Most of the performances are so unhinged and unpolished, especially that of Jon Hamm as a frustration- and threat-prone FBI agent, that the spectacularly groomed and composed Don Draper would surely fire him on the spot if the two ever met. Talented actors like Renner, star of last year’s Best Picture winner “The Hurt Locker,” are relegated to unfettered anger and comic relief, while further evidence is displayed that Blake Lively isn’t a terribly great actress. And Affleck, well, he might be better served to stay behind the camera, despite his impressive tragic performance in “Hollywoodland.”

Fortunately, the film manages to pick up in its second half, leaving behind overlong speeches and cheap dialogue to focus on intense action, which the film proves early on is its greatest asset. It features chase sequences that are, while not quite the caliber of something seen in the Bourne trilogy or a Daniel Craig James Bond film, still pretty damn exciting and well-done. The film's clever ending is indicative of a much smarter film than this average, overindulgent heist movie.


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