|September 17, 2010|
|Based On A Novel By
|Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Action, Crime, Drama, Romance, Suspense, Thriller
Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
The Town is one of the first films this year that has true Academy Award nominations written all over it. Not only with great performances from Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner, but with Ben Affleck at the helm as director, the movie screams Best Director nominee. The Town is simple yet completely entertaining, not relying on gimmicks, but instead taking the heist genre to a superior dramatic level. View the trailer for The Town and honestly, straight-faced tell me that it does not make the film look epic.
Most films never even have a chance to live up to the high standards set by their trailers but The Town actually becomes one of the few to succeed, remaining just as awe-inspiring as the trailer and surpassing all expectations. Each segment of the film is noteworthy, thus the effectiveness of the trailer. The Town is a promoter’s dream (or curse, depending how you look) with the entire film being chalk full of hair-raising material.
The Town is largely a string of interactions between two or more of the characters throughout the film, but done so in a way that holds an audience’s attention. You may ask yourself “aren’t all films a string of conversations?”, however, most films lack the raw, unpredictable nature of human nature and The Town finds a way to portray human interaction perfectly. Each moment in the film is special and unique. Two particular characters rarely speak to each other more than once and if they do, it escalates a little more each time until their final breaking point, effectively building the suspense of the film. These constant string of memorable moments is the result of great writing and story structure, an art that few films/filmmakers have learned to master.
The story of The Town is simple. Charlestown is home to more bank robbers than any other part of the country. Don MacRay (Affleck) and James “Gem” Coughlin (Renner) head a particular gang in Charlestown that are extremely good at what they do. But when hothead Gem kidnaps the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), during a robbery, the FBI, with Jon Hamm in particular, starts to sniff around. When the gang finds out Claire is a local in Charlestown, Don is sent to keep tabs on her. Instead, Don falls for Claire and they begin a relationship behind the gang’s back. With more bank robberies and the FBI breathing down their neck, Don expresses his desire to leave Charlestown for good, but when this proves impossible, the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. In an unlikely ending the likes of Bonnie & Clyde, the film truly progresses into nothing short of a masterpiece.
Ben Affleck shows no signs of strain as both director and actor. His odd guy out character in the gang of bank robbers is settled nicely against his good guy Boston accent. Affleck proves he can be scary and dominating countered with wit and charm (“I like to have a good cry at the nail salon”). Contrasted nicely is wildman Jeremy Renner. Renner takes his Hurt Locker performance and transcends it into a gangster from Charlestown. Renner’s character is positively off the handle and causes most of the excitement of the film. Just when you feel like the film is suspenseful enough, Renner takes it to the next level. The comedic scene where Affleck coyly asks Renner to beat up a gang in the projects is a prime example (“I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it after“). A “harmless” situation with hockey masks and sticks eventually escalates into Renner pulling a gun on the mobster for what he has allegedly done. Most heist films become generic when the police involved are absolutely despised and no remorse is shown for the men of the law. In Bonnie & Clyde and Thelma & Louise, you wholeheartedly side with the outlaws, even though in all reality, what the outlaws are doing is morally wrong. However, in The Town, the film finally shows success in getting an audience behind the law enforcement.
Jon Hamm heading the FBI is a wise choice. Setting aside his 1960’s persona in Mad Men, Jon Hamm delivers an admirable performance. His suave looks and poignant speaking skills (“this is the not fucking around crew… cause this not fucking around thing is about to go both ways”) cause for some of the finer points in the film and definitely builds friction while you try to choose not only who to side with but who will end up the better man. I feel as though very few actors could pull off the relatable agent and with Jon Hamm showing his chops, his future is set after Mad Men has settled.
The women actresses also blow passed their boundaries; not because their performances were spot-on in The Town, but because compared to their body of work, this is their best performances yet. Rebecca Hall, best known from Starter For 10 and The Prestige, plays Don‘s love interest. Though her wishy-washy attitude gets exploited, the fact that she carries on so well early on in the film means more than all of her past performances combined. Blake Lively, on the other hand, sets aside her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Gossip Girl roots and truly knocks relevancy into her part as Don’s former lover and sister to Gem. Her hooker-like, run-of-the-mill broken home survivor persona contradicts all Lively is known for in previous roles, and for the most part, she earns any acclamations she receives.
Great cast, great story, and great execution, The Town is damn near perfect. The right mix of drama and well handled action sequences with bank robberies, car chases, and stand-offs, The Town is the straight from the likes of a Shakespearean tragedy. Come award season, if The Town does not garner at least a few nominations, I will be greatly surprised, yet with The Road’s lack of nominations last year, there is always the strange possibility that this film will be overlooked. From where I am standing, The Town is a solid film, the likes of what many directors, especially as their follow-up directorial debut, will never experience.