The Town

Whoever planned out Ben Affleck’s comeback knows a thing or two about manipulating us cynical cultural consumers. After endearing himself to teenaged cinephiles with solid turns in a few Kevin Smith comedies and picking up an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, B-Fleck (shudder) spent the better part of his career alienating his original fans and making himself into something of a cultural laughing stock. Just compare his filmography with that of his good friend Matt Damon. After Hunting, Damon teamed up with Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan, re-teamed with Gus Van Sant for the experimental Gerry, joined the fluffy-but-fun Ocean’s crew and established an action career as Jason Bourne. That’s glossing over a few big misses, but working with Spielberg, Soderbergh, Gilliam and Scorsese makes for a heck of a decade.

Affleck, in that same span, made Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and Gigli. That’s glossing over a few decent movies, but the point is, he ditched his cultural cachet faster than… something clever. And yet here he is, starring in his second feature-length directorial effort, and earning kudos across the board for his work on both sides of the camera. Who would have guessed?

Well, anyone who saw his first stab at feature directing, Gone Baby Gone, for one. But while that film was noteworthy as much for the “Holy shit, Affleck directed a movie?” factor as for its quality, The Town offers even more. There’s a reason it’s sitting at a comfortable 95 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatos – it’s a well-written, well-acted, intelligent and tense blend of action and drama. It’s kind of a phenomenal movie, really.

Admittedly, there are plenty of bank heist movies out there, and Affleck’s story about a good-hearted former NHL draft pick who got sucked into a lower calling fits fairly comfortably into the general mold, but it works, and it works because Affleck is adept at keeping so many balls in the air. He crafts a compelling relationship between his own character and his chaotic hoodlum of a best friend-slash-partner in crime. He writes a believable romance between himself and Rebecca Hall, a potential witness turned love interest. And then he sticks these believable human relationships into taught, compelling and thoroughly visceral action sequences, with an attention to detail and a level of creativity that puts most heist flicks to shame. It’s rare for action and drama to complement each other rather than vying for attention, but The Town pulls that off.

Much of The Town revolves around Affleck’s character hoping to break away from his bad-yet-profitable decisions and start again with a clean slate, and it’s easy enough to read that as a comment on his own cinematic career. The story is ambiguous enough that it’s not entirely clear if his Boston hood deserves his second chance. The Town is good enough to prove that Affleck does deserve his.

One Response to “The Town”
  1. Andrea L Campbell says:

    When do you sleep? What with your piercing and irreverent blog posts and your getting a Masters in that classy literature/culture degree thing.

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