Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Town (2010) ****
I suppose I’ll have to retire the Ben Affleck Test for good now. I described this test before in my review of “Hollywoodland.” Basically, in the past, for any movie I was considering watching, I would just ask myself, “Is Ben Affleck in it?” If the answer was yes, then I wouldn’t watch the movie. Simple, right? In the last few years, though, Affleck has managed to get himself together, and the test just doesn’t work anymore, as proven by his latest project, “The Town.” Oh well, at least there’s still the Keanu Reeves Test.
Based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, “The Town” is very much a Ben Affleck project. He helped write the screenplay, directed, and starred in the film. Affleck plays Doug Macray, a poor Boston-Irish guy who robs banks with his buddies. Doug plays with fire by getting into a relationship with the manager from one of the banks he robbed, while Jon Hamm’s FBI agent Frawley breathes down his neck.
There is nothing remarkable about the plot of “The Town.” It is a standard heist movie. What makes the film stand out is the top-notch performances from basically everyone in the movie, which must be a testament to Affleck, who directed them all. Jon Hamm is cool and edgy as an FBI agent, and way less annoying than Al Pacino was in “Heat.” Jeremy Renner is amazing as Doug’s dumb-but-loyal, sociopathic best friend. Blake Lively is absolutely unrecognizable as a skanked-out oxycontin-whore and Doug’s ex-girlfriend. Affleck himself is completely likeable and natural in his role. My favorite performance here, however, is that of Rebecca Hall, as the bank manager who unwittingly falls for a bank robber. I remember Hall and her natural, laid-back beauty from “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” The thing about Hall is that she wouldn’t be instantly considered the hottest girl at an Oscar party, but the more I look at her face, the more I dig her. It isn’t just her looks that make her shine in “The Town,” though. She totally nails the vulnerability and strength of this character.
I don’t know what this movie’s place in history will be. Other than tight acting and some nice camera work, there is nothing that will necessarily make this film be remembered twenty years from now. “The Town” is great entertainment for today, but in the long run it may simply be remembered as the movie that proved, once and for all, that Ben Affleck is no joke.