Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Town

Ben Affleck didn't know how to end "The Town." Considering that the rest of the film is as atmospheric as Peter Yates' similarly Boston-set "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" and twice as good, this is a shame. Pre-ending, it's entertaining, evocative, satisfying, and just about worthy of Affleck's "Gone Baby Gone." It wouldn't have caused the same sort of philosophical debate that resulted from that film's ending, but it would have been mighty fine. However, Affleck sends the film down maybe the wrong road, trapping himself in a corner only escapable through a terribly sappy resolution.

This film focuses on a neighborhood in Boston called Charleston, where (I believe) "Gone Baby Gone" was also set. Tragedy is in the air every second, since a ton of criminals operate from here. Ex-hockey-player Doug MacRay (a good Affleck) is one of them, along with his friend from childhood James (Jeremy Renner, playing a character similar to the one in "The Hurt Locker") whose drugged-up and promiscuous sister (Blake Lively) he dated and had a kid with, and a couple others (Owen Burke and Slaine). They work for Fergie Colm (Pete Postlethwaite, in a nice bit part), a mob boss who has a long history with Doug and his prison-sentenced father Stephen (Chris Cooper).

Doug and his cohorts are considered experts by the police. They are extremely meticulous in all of their robberies, making sure to wash their DNA off the crime scene and to deal with any dangerous witnesses. They take on a bank at the film's start, and are forced to kidnap the bank manager and release her at the water. This is Claire (Rebecca Hall), who is unsettled by the ordeal. She talks to the FBI (namely Adam Frawley, played solidly as a Landa-esque passive-aggressive by Jon Hamm) but doesn't say much.

Doug, who stole her license at some point during the robbery, follows her from her house to a laundromat and ends up carrying on a conversation with her as just some guy. She brings up her horrible situation, and he must contain his knowledge while comforting her. This encounter escalates into having a drink, and then further. This is a love that is bound to collapse, but Doug is not thinking as the levelheaded robbery planner that he is. This provokes relevant thoughts and doubles as a look at love in the information age.

As the relationship progresses, Doug wants more and more to back out of his dangerous activity. The jobs get increasingly riskier, from robbing a truck to stealing from Fenway Park (which is an anti-American and -Bostonian offense on top of a federal one, if you ask me), with the gunfights taking place in more and more closed spaces. This arc is a bit hard for Affleck to handle. Maybe he bit off more than he could chew. All I know is that he did a very nice job with the ending of "Gone Baby Gone," and that here he turned to schmaltz. B

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