Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Town: Grade B

The Town (2010)

Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, John Hamm; Co-writer and director Ben Affleck.

This is a tour de force for Affleck, who plays a sensitive gangster in Charlestown, the tough Bunker Hill district of Boston. He is the mastermind of a group of crooks who have done a string of successful bank and armored car holdups. The gang includes a childhood friend, now psychopath (Renner) with themes borrowed from 2003's Mystic River to suggest that they are sociological victims, trapped in Charlestown.

Affleck’s character starts a relationship with a woman the gang briefly abducted from a bank holdup (Hall), and eventually she learns the truth about his criminal ways. The dramatic question is, will she still love him anyway? The relationship story is strong, even though there is no natural chemistry between Affleck and Hall. That part of the story is well-written and both actors are extremely good.

I haven’t seen Hall since her outstanding performance in 2008’s Christina Vicky Barcelona, where she played memorably alongside Scarlett Johansson, who she slightly resembles. In this movie she delivers an authentic, convincing performance.

Affleck is a fine actor too, despite his mumbling, but his character in this movie is not believable: a career criminal who is intelligent, has a steady job and a jailbird father, but can’t resist the life of crime; a cold-blooded, violent thief and murderer who has an emotional, intuitive, sensitive relationship. It doesn’t add up and when his character does several things that seem “out of character,” you realize, you don’t really know the character.

Renner steals every scene he is in with his labile intensity. The plot is basic cops and robbers, with a sappy manufactured ending. Directing is very attuned to the actors’ talents but there are at least two long, slack segments that should have been edited out, fallout from trying to mix an action shoot-em-up with a tender relationship movie. But the plusses far outweigh the minuses for this enjoyable crime drama.

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