Friday, September 17, 2010

Affleck Does The Town

It seems as if Hollywood isn't content to just give us one or two action movies at a time. They hit us with every conceivable idea in the book: Takers and The Expendables were made with dry and direct stereotypes of machoism. Now comes an action packed thriller with more heart and soul than the standard thriller. The second film directed by Ben Affleck, The Town harbors a story that, up until the very end, is not only believable but realistic as well. The Town stars some of today's hot young actors and they seem to give it their all in making this movie more than just a simple shoot-em-up.

The Town starts with what looks like a perfect bank robbery by a group of elite thieves. These thieves are simple men with few options. Ben Affleck plays Doug MacRay, the group's leader as well as it's calming voice. The group's hot head, James Coughlin, is played by Jeremy Renner, and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke) and Albert Magloan (Slaine) round out this quarter. Taking a bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and calmly talking her through the opening of the safe Doug shows he can do the job he is forced to do, but also be calm and reassuring. James takes Claire as a hostage when they leave, the men later leave her on the beach and drive off.

The film's other side covers the F.B.I. agents tasked with what appears to be a never ending crusade to bring down MacRay's group of criminals. Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and Agent Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) work this case as if it is the only one they have; it consumes them and they find themselves not unwilling to bend a few rules to see that it solved. When they find what appears to be the magic clue, things fall into place a little too pat, but this doesn't detract much from the film.

Doug meanwhile started to date Claire, but he tries to hide this fact from the rest of his crew. The conflict of this film arises mainly from that fact that things never seem to work smoothly for Doug. At one point he had a relationship with Jame's sister, Claire (Rebecca Hall) ,and this will of course implode on Doug as does most every other thing he tries. There is a little side story about the disappearance of Doug's mother when he was six, and the incarceration of his father (Chris Cooper), but by the end of the film, even these side plots are wrapped up a little to neatly. By the time the revelations come, we are waiting for the confrontation between the men who live on both sides of the law.

When James tells Doug that Fergus Colm (Pete Postlethwaite) has a job for them he tries to back out, Fergus who runs the neighborhood rackets knows it is Doug alone who can get his team to do this job, so he lays the facts out for Doug, even going as far as threatening Claire. Even a blind man can see the penultimate confrontation between these two men coming. And giving nothing away Doug will have even more reasons to confront Fergus later. The men think they have an easy inside track to their new job and things seem to be going smoothly until the first bullets fly.

The ending of this movie is of course Hollywood fluff: the good guys win, but the likable bad guy lives to fight another day, or at least one sequel. The action jump starts mid-way through the film as a second Armored car robbery leads to a wild chase through the back streets of bean town. The cities landscape is seen in bright details, its lusterless and its beauty are both seen throughout the film. Ultimately, the climax of course takes place in what is one of the most famous tourist locations in Boston -- Fenway Park.

I give The Town 2 and a half stars. The action is plausible, until the ending, when it gets in over it's head with the way the film is wrapped up. Hollywood's belief that American movie audiences need for the good guy to win takes away the heart of a story like this. In an earlier film I remarked that I was glad that the antagonists didn't all walk away into the sunset. Here Doug does just that and it feels as false as the idea that he does it so effortlessly. It's too bad really, as The Town was one movie that I had looked forward to seeing.

The Town is rated R for Strong Violence, Pervasive Language, Some Sexuality and Drug Use.
Running Time is 2 hrs.
Distributed by Warner Brothers.

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