Old 09-18-2010, 06:33 PM

Well, the good news is that Ben Affleck is a pretty decent director, and he delivers a fairly entertaining movie. The action is plentiful, the tension builds and the performances are, for the most part, solid.

The bad news is that there are plot holes so big you could drive an armored truck through, and they appear about 15 minutes in and peck at your brain for the duration.


The Town should've been re-titled "Boston Heat," since it pays heavy tribute (I'm in a good mood, so I'll refrain from using the word rip-off) to Robert De Niro's great heist flick.

Let's see if any of this sounds familiar: a crack bank robber/master thief known for his elaborate planning and cautiousness, falls in love with a woman he meets and begins to reconsider "the life." He heads up a close knit team who depend on him to get by, including one hothead/trouble maker he keeps making exceptions for. Hot on his trail is a savvy, dedicated lawman obsessed with bringing him down. The two men come face to face and pretty much issue mutual challenges to best the other. Of course, despite his odd hours and ever-present indications, the woman remains clueless for most of the movie. Ultimately, it all comes down to one final job - one that will put his teammates right and provide enough of a cushion for the man (and hopefully the woman) to start over somewhere. Bullets, blood and vengeance ensue.

I thought so.

Of course, you could do a lot worse than making a movie that's essentially Heat Lite. Affleck provides some great scenes, including the opening robbery, which moves so fast that you feel like you've been bum rushed right along with the patrons and employees of the bank. And the movie is put on the shoulders of some good actors, including Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") as Affleck's impetuous partner in crime, Chris Cooper as Affleck's incarcerated pop, Titus Welliver (LOST's Man in Black) as one of the local cops, and Pete Postlethwaite as the local boss that complicates things.

[Perhaps because he was staying so close to the Heat formula, Affleck felt the need to put a crappy actor in the lawman's role... although instead of Pacino's overacting, he instead uses a wooden Jon Hamm (I don't care what you people say - Mad Men blows and he can't do anything other than hold a smoldering cigarette). Hamm sucks the life out of almost every scene he's in - which is unfortunate, since his screen presence increases as the movie goes on.]


What bothered me most about the movie was how silly the core plot is. Even though I never bought De Niro's relationship with Amy Brenneman, at least it was born out of De Niro's growing loneliness and the fact that for all his success, it wasn't worth having if there was no one to share it with (unlike like the rest of his crew, who all had families and/or significant others). Here, Affleck's crew kidnaps one of the bank employees (Rebecca Hall's Claire Keesey) for no real reason whatsoever. While in their keep, the men feel no reason to disguise their voices or talk in whispers (she's blindfolded). And then just as inexplicably, they let her go (despite Renner's character being keen to want to kill/maim/shoot every person who so much as throws him a sideways glance).

Afraid that they may have let a key witness go scot-free, Affleck decides to tail her to find out what she knows. They end up meeting in a laundromat and, seemingly within minutes, they fall for one another. It's hard to decide what I couldn't fathom more:

How this chick didn't know it was him (Affleck's 5 minute dissertation on why she shouldn't tell the police about a key piece of evidence and his use of acronyms only a cop or criminal would know might have tipped her off) right from the get go;
- How Affleck's Mr. Cautious Planner could let himself screw up this badly; or
- How it could take the Feds so long to put this Encyclopedia Brown-esque mystery together.


...but that's the critical side of me talking. If you asked me whether or not you should see this movie, I'd tell you yes. Because it's fast paced, it holds your interest and you really do find yourself rooting for Affleck's character in the end.

I have friends that tell me I take these movies too seriously. I don't disagree with that. I cast the same critical eye on movies as I do really good food or a great bottle of wine. I like to swirl it around, breathe it in, wait for it to hit me and see how I react. I expect things. I want to be overpowered. Sometimes I shrug the bad ones off and sometimes I am exasperate at the greatness that could've been. But, hey, that's me.

Those same friends have told me they want movies where they don't have to think - that are light and fun and will take them away from real life for two hours. And while The Town isn't light, per se, it also isn't a downer. It's solid entertainment and I think you'd like it.

The Verdict: B-
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Old 06-07-2011, 04:17 PM
Here's one of the problems with "The Town":

The fact that the audience is supposed to root for Doug MacRay, an armed felon and wanted fugitive who ultimately escaped, with the help of Lady Claire, is part of the rub. No woman worth her salt would accept a date with and love a guy who's just kicked over her bank, robbed her at gunpoint, and traumatized her to the point of quitting her job at the bank. Imho, I can't fathom why Claire didn't just go right to Agt. Frawley for help when she learned the truth about who Doug really was, and when she realized that she was in way over her head.

Claire also continued to have contact with Doug and abet him in his crimes, and helping him escape justice by perverting the law by illegally tipping him off.
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