By Michael Kaye
The Town (Review)
Welcome to part 2 of my impromptu Ben Affleck retrospective. I imagine one of the many perks of actors taking on directing is that they get to have more control over the films they make, within reason. Warner Bros. certainly seems to like what Affleck did on Gone Baby Gone, that he was soon welcomed into the family starting with his next film, The Town, starring himself, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall and Jon Hamm.
Here's the story. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) leads a band of ruthless bank robbers and has no real attachments except for James (Jeremy Renner), who -- despite his dangerous temper -- is like a brother. Everything changes for Doug when James briefly takes a hostage, bank employee Claire Keesey. Learning that she lives in the gang's neighborhood, Doug seeks her out to discover what she knows, and he falls in love. As the romance deepens, he wants out of his criminal life, but that could threaten Claire.
I still say that Gone Baby Gone is Affleck's best film, but this one was the most entertaining. If you still have doubts about the upcoming Batman film, then keep reading, as I list of some of The Town's highlights to alleviate your fears.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is amazing. I'd honestly put this performance in Ben Affleck's top 5 of all time, and I doubt he'd be this good had he not taken up directing. When he has more creative control over a film, that's when he often gives a better, more focused performance. He has incredible chemistry with just about everyone on screen, most notably Jeremy Renner as his best friend James Coughlin, Rebecca Hall as his girlfriend Claire Keesey, and Jon Hamm as FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley. I was never really a huge fan of Jon Hamm until he started popping up on SNL, but The Town is when I really started to take him seriously as an actor. Aside from television, I'm surprised he hasn't been given that many leading roles. Another performance that stands out quite a bit is Blake Lively as Kris Coughlin. She's not in the movie for that long, but her role is significant enough that it leaves a lasting impression.
This was the feature film debut for screenwriter Peter Craig, who co-wrote the script alongside Affleck and Aaron Stockard. It's not quite as tight as the screenplay for Gone Baby Gone, but it's still just as thrilling, never a dull moment throughout its two hour runtime. I love how it doubles as both a standard crime thriller as well as a pretty touching romance. One of Affleck's greatest strengths as a writer is character interactions, and the best example of that can be found here. Whenever there's a scene that just has Doug and Jem talking, you get a great sense of their long history together, and how no matter what, they've got each other's backs till the end of the line.
Out of all of Affleck's directorial efforts, this one probably has the most action, with plenty of gun fights and car chases sprinkled throughout the film. Each heist the gang pulls is exciting to watch, but my favorite has to be the climax at Fenway Park. Scenes like this one get me really excited to see how Affleck handles the action in The Batman, especially when he has to go up against an army of gangsters.
Finally, of course Affleck calls upon his musical muse Harry Gregson-Williams to compose the score, with additional help from David Buckley. It's a little more minimalist this time around, but still gets the job done whenever certain emotional beats needed to be accented, or we're in the middle of a high stakes car chase. Fun fact, did you know that Harry's brother Rupert is composing the score for Wonder Woman? Imagine how cool it would be if both brothers became staples of the DCEU?
The Town is a fun, yet gritty Boston crime drama that's just perfectly in line with Ben Affleck's sensibilities. It has a great cast, a solid screenplay, and some awesome action sequences. I'll touch on this more in the final editorial, but as I said at the top, you really shouldn't be worried that about Affleck directing a great Batman movie, because he's got all the resources he needs at his fingertips.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen The Town, and if so what did you think? Also, stay tuned for Affleck's third directorial effort Argo, which won best picture? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review.