Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Town

The Film: The Town

The Actors: Ben Affleck (also directed), Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively, Jon Hamm, Chris Cooper, Pete Postelthwaite, etc.

The Dealio: Based on Chuck Hogan's book, Prince of Thieves, this is one of those stories which seems at once familiar (think Michael Corleone in the Godfather) and yet, very alien. Doug (Affleck) is the brain-power behind the 'no mess-up crew', as Hamm's FBI agent calls the band of local hoods who routinely -and embarrassingly successfully- knock over armored trucks and banks. During one such bank attempt, things go awry when one of the crew grabs the bank manager- a young woman from the neighborhood- as a hostage. Leaving, of course, the ultimate in unanswered questions: allowed to live, could she finger any of the robbers? Doug volunteers to 'check it out' and begins to fall for the woman (Hall), strengthening his resolve to 'put the old neighborhood and all this in my rear view mirror after this one last job', leaving behind the complex tightrope/spiders' web of loyalties, owed allegiances and tricky paybacks. But, as is usually the case, the 'one last job' turns into another, then another. Each one is more hurried, less well-planned and therefore, more risky, than the one before. It seems only a matter of time before this incredibly shaky house of cards comes tumbling down around Doug's ears.

The Grading Period: 4.799 pengies out of 5. This is a movie that stays true to the letter and the spirit of the source material, and still bears the unmistakable stamp of a skilled and invested director. For those who felt that Gone, Baby, Gone was a fluke, well, as Ben, himself would say, 'How'd'ya like me NOW!?' When I listened to this book on CD, a couple of years ago, I had to stop it several times to catch my breath and to break the tension. It was just that involving. The movie translation bore all the same elements: for the last 30-40 minutes, I could. not. sit. back. in. my chair. The pacing was swift and sharp and smart. I read somewhere that, again, Affleck had gone with real neighborhood peeps for extras and cameos. And all the deets were pin-point accurate- right down to the tiny chip out of one of Dougie's front teeth.
PS- I like you fine, Ben. Just fine.

Lessons Learned: Apparently, you can be a deadly killer and a florist (thinking here of De Niro's Jack Burns in Meet The Parents). Also- you can take the boy out of Boston; but the other way just doesn't seem to work as well. And thank God for that.
Lastly-finally! a use for those old Skeletor masks...just not one I could ever employ.

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