Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Town

****
Following his deftly-handled directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone Ben Affleck is back all guns blazing (big, loud automatic ones, that is).

I have always had a soft spot for Affleck since I first saw him providing measured, understated support in Good Will Hunting. It stung a bit when the press released all hell on the guy. Basically, he married a woman he loved and made a bad film with her. He’s hardly Fatty Arbuckle. So it’s good to see him bounce back from an experience that appears to have only made him stronger. He’s also back in front of the camera playing Doug MacRay, the leader of a tough crew of armed robbers. The story is set in Charlestown (hence The Town) in Boston, Massachusetts – a neighbourhood, according to the opening blurb, more densely populated with bank robbers than there are tobacco workers in Havana. Possessing sharply honed skills passed down through generations they are something of a crack team. And boy, it’s great to watch them in action. The logistical workings of a heist have always appealed to me and here we see those details in abundance. While the characters are given time to grow three dimensions, there’s not a lot of hanging around. This is a thriller with an emphasis on thrills. While it’s nothing especially original, it is wildly entertaining.

So many US cities have been done to death in cinema that film-makers can rely on lazy shorthand: a well-known landmark here, a well-worn cliché there… But Boston (at least to this reviewer) is relatively unknown, thus fresh and exciting. It proves itself to be a location rich in character, and that accent is amazing. It always brings to mind Roy Scheider’s gentle ribbing of the Massachusetts natives in Jaws, “They're in the yaard, not too faar from the caar”.

Affleck is backed by, and draws intense performances from, a high calibre cast: Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper to name just a few. Jon Hamm (of Mad Men fame) is a revelation. I always suspected he may be a one trick pony but I’m happy to admit, his performance as the determined G-man proves me completely wrong.

2 comments:

  1. Is this M Night Shyamalan's The Town? Does it turn out that they all live inside a much bigger 18th century village?

    I thought 'Gone Baby Gone' was a fantastic film and I've been eagerly awaiting this, I'm glad BAffleck has continued the good work, critics have been quite snooty about the film but on paper it's right up my street. Well done for agreeing with my opinion of a film I haven't seen yet.

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  2. My full review of this film is that Rebecca Hall's face is an object of beauty in inactivity but one too complex to comprehend in motion.

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