Monday, 4 October 2010

The Town

Ben Affleck does it again with a stellar cast providing what could be one of the grittiest heist films in mainstream cinema. Danny Ocean couldn't charm himself out of this one ...

Killing Zoe, Heat, Point Break, these all have some great heist scenes but I never thought the Daredevil himself Ben Affleck would make anything close to films as good as these. After Gone Baby Gone, Affleck shows that his writing and directing skills aren't just a flash in the pan with what I believe is one of the most impressive films this year so far. Not as amazing as Inception, but still.

The Town follows Affleck's character Doug who is an ex-hockey player who has turned to his father's life of crime. His friend James played by the brilliant Jeremy Renner from Hurt Locker fame is a psychopath whose sister, an impressive Blake Lively, is still in love with Doug. All the while, Doug is trying to get out of the life with his new squeeze he met while robbing a bank by taking her hostage, Rebecca Hall's Claire. Hot on Doug, James and the rest of the gang's tail is FBI agent Jon Hamm who people will better know as my personal hero Don Draper from Mad Men. The casting is incredible and each talented actor brings something unique to the story and seeing Affleck as a tortured, depressed, yet ambitious man battling his inner demons and trying to break loose from The Town is a truly affecting battle. It's very important in films for the setting to be just as essential as the actors, and Boston is clearly portrayed as a violent, beautiful, living breathing city but for everyone there, for good or for bad, it's home.

The action was great, the shoot-outs, heists and general violence was spot on with Renner relishing as his ex-con, nihilistic Boston gangster, if you can call them that. The plot is almost a weird love story splintered between action, fraternal love, criminal politics, detective work, self-respect and family issues. There's a lot going on but never are you overwhelmed, it's a perfect balance with Ben Affleck holding it all together like superglue. The pacing is a little slow at times but that's not it's only problem.

Firstly, there is so much emphasis on the love story in the first half that I'd rather they had spent less time on that and more on his other relationships with his friends and family. Also I can't help but always think 'It's Ben Affleck', he's not exactly renowned for these gritty roles and sometimes it can put me off, which is nothing against his acting, just his Hollywood-J-Lo-marriage-celebrity status. Also, even though the heists are amazing, I just wish they had gone on a bit longer and that Jon Hamm, as a bullying, swearing, alpha-male agent got a bit more screen time. I also wish someone asked his partner about the ending of Lost.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and Ben Affleck might be the next Clint Eastwood in terms of actors creating deep, dark, mesmerising films that are brave and character driven. Unfortunately, it falls just short of being what could have been perfect, it was too long and not snappy enough as it could have been. However, it's an amazing next step for Affleck and I can't wait to see his next venture. Check this film out, you won't be disappointed.

Rating: 8/10

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