Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm down with The Town

It may seem like Ben Affleck has it easy. Gorgeous, famous wife, an Oscar, two cute kids and some good movies under his belt. However, he doesn't have much cred to film buffs. Sure, he was in those great Kevin Smith flicks, 200 Cigarettes and Boiler Room, but who can forget Gigli and Daredevil? He was never destined to follow in the foot steps of DeNiro. Lucky for us, he stepped behind the camera, and he's actually very good at casting himself.

The Town works in all the ways Good Will Hunting works. Affleck has an intimate knowledge of the Bay State state of mind. He excels at portraying a blue collar tough guy whose only fear is that his buddies might find out that he's got a heart of gold. He's that bad boy with a sweet creamy center that every girl kids herself into believing truly exists. The big romantic streak running down the center of this cops'n'robbers movie throws you off. It's like a French romance set in Boston. I'm a little troubled by Affleck's seeming obsession with stories about men who had devastating childhoods. Just how tough was it being the kid from Cali in The People's Republic of Cambridge?

Affleck plays Doug McCray, a crook from a family of crooks who hangs out with other crooks and skanky girls. A big heist has him cross paths with a goody-two-shoes bank manager who just happens to be the girl of his dreams. But can he quit the life, and can the life quit him?

There's some serious talent flashing around in this movie. Affleck is good, Jeremy Renner is explosive as Doug's seriously demented friend, James. John Hamm shrugs off Don Draper to play a frustrated and ambitious FBI agent. But it was Blake Lively who really blew me away. Having lived my whole live in Massachusetts, I can honestly say I've never seen such a perfect portrayal of a lady Masshole on screen as Lively delivers. She's like a white Precious as Krista, only she's crafting her own destruction. She is deliciously tragic and heartbreakingly sympathetic. A product of her environment, Krista is in love with the things that hold her down. Institutionalized and trapped. I know this girl. I grew up with her. I see her on the T sometimes and at the mall. She is the girl next door, who deserves more but never wanted it for herself because she's too filled with self-loathing. Incredible. Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper round out the cast as the grizzled veterans showing the kids how it's done.

The direction isn't anything mind-blowing, but it gets the job done and the robberies and chase scenes are all good fun. I was on the edge of my seat quite often. That's always a good thing. But it sometimes telegraphs its punches, so Affleck isn't at master-level yet, but I think his next one might be.

The Town delivers some top notch, Boston-bred entertainment. If you liked The Boondock Saints, Gone Baby Gone and Heat, you'll enjoy this one. I know I did.

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