For several years people have been picking on Ben Affleck for the roles he has chosen to take. Because of that, it is assumed that the success for Good Will Hunting belongs to Matt Damon – completely dismissing Affleck for his talent. After proving his writing and directing skills with 2007′s Gone Baby Gone, Affleck has shown that he is no dummy. By writing, directing and starring in The Town, he solidifies the idea that he has got what it takes to do all three – something that few actors can pull off. The is no room for anyone to pick on him now.
Based on Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves,” The Town is set in Affleck’s backyard of Charlestown, MA. This Boston suburb is notorious for its high amount of robberies and organized crime. The story revolves around Affleck’s character, Doug MacRay, one of said bank robbers.
The Town opens with Doug and his crew robbing a prestigious bank. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so when the silent alarm is tripped, they take a hostage and make a run for it before the cops arrive. When the coast is clear, they let their blindfolded hostage go, bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige). Out of fear of her having seen something that can give them up and take it to the feds, Doug starts to tail her, following her around observing what she is doing and who she is talking to.
While watching her in a laundromat, Claire approaches Doug asking for coin change. Trying to remain as unimpressionable as possible, Doug tells her ‘no’ and tries to avoid her. But when she has a breakdown right in front of him from the fear and stress of the robbery, the inner good guy of Doug comes out and comforts her. Before long, Doug and Claire become close friends and a relationship starts to form. When his loose cannon “brother” and partner Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker) figures this out, it raises a huge red flag – one so big it is noticeable to their local crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite, Inception).
After seeing crime send his father (Chris Cooper, The Bourne Identity) to prison for life, cause his mother to run away and destroy relationships all over Charlestown, Doug wants out. It has been a long time coming. As we get to know Doug, we learn that he has been cleaning up his life for some time now. He visits a drugs and alcoholics anonymous group regularly to keep clean. No drugs. No alcohol. He left his long-time girlfriend Krista (Blake Lively, Gossip Girl), Jim’s sister, presumably for dealing oxycodone. The only problem he has yet to overcome is the robbery – and with the feds (played by Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm and LOST‘s Titus Welliver) hot on their trail, Claire seems to be a more than worthy reason to leave it all behind.
One of the most brilliant elements about The Town is how it fails to move in the direction you would expect it to. It is completely unpredictable. Just when you think you have something pegged, it defies your predictions. The story is so well written that the dialogue used within it is absolutely solid. Any time Jon Hamm is on screen, he owns it. Combining his strong acting with powerful dialogue creates some of the most verbally intense scenes you have ever seen. The intensity of those scenes is comparable to the heist sequences – one of which involving the best high-speed car chase you have seen in years.
But Affleck’s directing efforts are not limited to behind the scenes work. He drives performances from actors you would least expect it from. Whenever Renner, Hall, Postlethwaite and Hamm are on screen, you are pretty much guaranteed to see great acting. But who would expect anything special from a Gossip Girl? Blake Lively is pretty much ensured to have a solid acting career after her performance in The Town – and Affleck deserves credit for that. There isn’t a weak performance in the whole film – including his own.
Affleck shows us here that everything in his career that he was criticized for in the past was out of his control. If a movie turned out bad, it was completely out of his control. Some movies never turn out as they appear on the pages of a script and an actor is hardly to blame for that. An actor is only as good as his or her director. To see Affleck write an amazing screenplay and direct the picture – including direct himself as an actor – shows that he, personally, knows what he doing. He deserves all the credit in the world for producing one of the year’s very best films – easily the best crime drama since The Departed.
If you can handle lots of that typical Boston potty-mouth, several small burst of rough violence and one big one towards the end, then you MUST get out there and see The Town. Being one of the best films of 2010, you can expect to hear it mentioned quite a bit around awards season. The Town is absolutely perfect.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.