Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Town

Recently I was able to view an advanced screening of the new movie, The Town. It is written, directed, and stars Ben Affleck. Affleck plays a bank robber who falls in love with the girl he kidnaps. The story is one of the better of its genre but not exactly the best. The movie is being praised by film critics and to an extent I would have to agree with this. In particular what it does deserve praise for is Blake Lively's performance. Ben Affleck was also very good, however he does have a peculiar trait of jutting out his lower jaw when trying to talk with a Boston accent. Another high note is that the heist sequences are expertly depicted. As 'crime' and 'heist' genres have been portrayed numerous times in film it can be very difficult to produce something truly original. The heist scenes may not be the most original of its genre but they are nonetheless done well.

One of the major flaws in The Town is that the character development is weak. Ben Affleck's character Doug MacRay, is not exactly dynamic nor does he stand up against other memorable movie characters like Nick Moran's character Eddy from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Despite this, Affleck's character still engages the viewer. He is somewhat likable and is fleshed out to a degree but is done so slowly throughout the movie and with too small of portions. There are numerous other characters in the movie but they are overshadowed by Affleck's character. MacRay's best friend in the movie, James Coughlin (played by Jeremy Renner) is a character who receives a fair amount of screen time. Renner is a decent actor but nothing too remarkable and plays the character of Coughlin flatly and adds nothing noteworthy. Further, the character Coughlin acts solely as a prop to MacRay.

One actor who does add to the movie is Blake Lively, who plays Krista Coughlin (pictured right in a scene from The Town with Ben Affleck). To use the over-used phrase, Lively steals every scene she is in. Each moment she graced us with her appearance I instantly thought of how she will win an Oscar for her performance; mark my words, Lively will win or at least be nominated this year for best supporting actress.

The storyline for The Town is enjoyable. You will not be disappointed watching this movie, but do not expect the best. The movie starts out very strong with MacRay standing apart from his crooked brethren as a kind of smart Boston poet with a penchant for bank robberies and a taste for the ultra-violence. However, somewhere during the movie the story looses this feel. I don't wish to spoil anything about this movie but there are aspects to the story that occur in the beginning of the movie that become lost, forgotten, or wasted later in the movie. Another drawback to the story was that the first half of the movie felt choppy. The scenes felt spliced together and seemed to lack flow. Somewhere during the middle of the movie, however, the storyline began to gel. Perhaps the problem is that the storyline was not willing to focus on just a few characters and elements of the story. Instead, Affleck attempted to include too much in the story while not providing each segment enough of an opportunity to grow. Another factor is that few if any of the characters were allowed to develop and so I the viewer felt disengaged from being invested in what the story meant for the characters.

Visceral action is needed in a movie such as The Town, but it was not provided. In some of the best movies of the 'crime' genre such as Reservoir Dogs, there are characters that act absolutely reprehensible (characters Mr.White and Mr.Orange from Reservoir Dogs pictured at right). I did not see this anywhere in the movie. You need to have a truly bad guy, or the main character who you want to root for perform a deed that makes you cringe at the fact that you do like them; again I think of another movie that did this well, History of Violence. This negative strike also goes for the heist scenes as a whole, which was briefly mentioned at the start of this post. While they are definitely engaging and boasts one of the better car chase scenes I've watched in a while, it was still not enough. They needed to be about 5-10 minutes longer and to have had more drama added to them. I wished that they had added more suspense to the scenes to make you wonder who would make it out.

With all of this being said, The Town still stands as a very enjoyable heist /crime movie that has some incredible acting from Lively. The heist scenes were also well constructed and the car chase was great fun, although these scenes could have been longer. Go see this movie. You will enjoy it, but just don't expect it to be as good as movies such as Reservoir Dogs or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

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