Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Town (2010)

(Poster by Adam Bendict)

With 8 Golden Raspberry nominations, 3 of which he won, you'd be inclined to think Ben Affleck was in the wrong game as an actor. You'd probably be right too, because he's much better when he's behind the camera. The Town, a Boston-based crime drama, is Affleck's  second film as director following his 2007 Boston-based crime drama Gone Baby Gone.

To be fair we're not exactly retreading previous work though. Gone Baby Gone was a missing person mystery told from the perspective of the police, and The Town is full of bank heists and is told through the eyes of the thieves. Set piece after set piece ramp up the action and deliver some fantastic tension and a tangible sense of risk. With all the guns and get ups (there's a lot of fun with masks), it'd be easy for the film to turn into a Grand Theft Auto-style ridiculousness festival, but there's a weight to the actions of the police and the robbers. When someone starts shooting, shit gets real rather than it being just another scene and when someone dies it's actually addressed instead of a case of Henchman #457 just taking early retirement.

In between the action sequences, The Town is solid. It's not going to change the world of storytelling as we know it, but it holds together well enough. You do have to allow for some suspension of disbelief in regards to Affleck's character's choice of ally though, because it might just make him the dumbest bank robber on the planet. Seriously, watch the opening sequence and ask yourself "Who is the worst possible person Doug could possibly fall head over heels for right now?" and it's them. But if you're willing to get past that it's not that bad.

A credit to Affleck is how great the film looks. Some credit should probably also go to the city of Boston. Most US heist movies seem to feature some small, deserty, sparsely populated town or a high-rise dominated metropolis made up completely of right angles. Boston, at least in The Town, feels a lot more European with windy allies, old buildings mixed with new and a lot of greenery on screen from the sky shots.

There's a lot of fun to be had watching The Town. Money, guns, nuns and tension is a good recipe for what is apparently becoming it's own little sub-genre: the Boston Crime Drama.

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