October 3, 2010
At least it's not based on a Dennis Lehane novel
I watched the latest in the decade's glut of Boston crime movies, The Town. It wasn't too bad, and given how easy it would have been for it to get lost in the Shutter River Gone Baby Departed chowdah pot, it does OK for itself.
The biggest benefit of directing when you're already a movie star seems to be that you can assemble a phenomenally good cast. Ben Affleck was so good at casting this movie that he got a few more top-notch actors than he even needed. Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper are two of my very favorite actors, and while it was nice to see them again, they're given basically nothing to do but get through their brief scenes without completely overshadowing everyone else in the room. Cooper was especially wasted as Ben's imprisoned dad--if his one scene had been cut, it wouldn't have made any difference to the story at all.
The movie goes for quantity over quality in some other ways too. After Ben and Rebecca Hall meet, their relationship has to progress to a certain intensity and seriousness pretty fast. But instead of showing any real passion or chemistry or reasons why they're so into each other, we just see them go on about 85 different dates. Then they kiss. Then they're in love. Because the screenplay says they are.
One downside of casting lots of exceptional actors, besides having to create needless scenes for them all to act in, is that they make the less talented actors stick out uncomfortably. Especially when those actors are also the director. There are a couple of fantastic scenes between Ben Affleck and his best friend and partner in crime, Jeremy Renner, but Renner is so far ahead of Affleck in focus and believability that he makes Ben look like he's just sitting there waiting his turn to say his lines. Almost everybody in the movie is more memorable than Ben Affleck, and he's in just about every scene. He's not terrible, he's just out of his league.
Here's another actor that did a better job than Ben Affleck: Blake Lively. I know! She plays a broken-down local girl whose hometown has chewed up and spit out. It's not at all a glamorous role, and she doesn't try to make it into one. I was impressed. Especially considering she was probably the weak link of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Plus: excellent action sequences! Sometimes I tune these out in heist movies, but these were fantastic. The car chase through those narrow, winding streets of the North End was my favorite scene. Nice camera work throughout.
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