Ben Affleck isn’t what everybody had made him into following the disaster that was Gigli. Sure he’d been in some pretty bad movies, but he’s always been a talented actor and back when he made Gone Baby Gone, it reminded everyone that he had some real credibility when it came to filmmaking. The guy won an Academy Award for writing with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting and that wasn’t a fluke. His work on The Town proves that he does have a solid eye for putting together a good film.
In a way, The Town is like a less obtrusive companion piece to The Departed. Where Scorcese played to his image and rode the tropes that made him a powerhouse in the crime genre, Affleck paints a rougher and less refined portrait of Boston crime. The Town is a film that borrows from many great films before it, most notably from Michael Mann’s Heat, as you can see an easy influence of his heist and shootout style imprinted on Affleck’s gang of crooks, but at the same time, he never apes the style in a way that makes it seem like a carbon copy or a ripoff.
Affleck is smart enough to know that it’s the characters that make movies like this work. Well staged heist sequences alone aren’t going to make the film stand out. So here we get Affleck turning in his best acting work in ten years while Jeremy Renner revels in playing a character that in the seventies would have gone to a young Joe Pesci. He’s a violent hot-head with no sense of conscience. He has his own moral code, but societal values mean nothing to him and Renner plays it with a level of authenticity that will earn him more than a fair share of accolades to pile on top of his praise for The Hurt Locker. Jon Hamm does a good job with what he’s given, though he really doesn’t get enough time to develop into a well rounded character. We don’t really see what motivates him to be the kind of cop that he plays, but this isn’t his story, so it’s not that big a gripe. Blake Lively scores some major points for pulling off the trashy ex-girlfriend character and it’s obvious she’s trying to distance herself from Gossip Girl here, but she’s also a victim of not enough screen time syndrome.
All in all, this is still one of the best fims of the year. I imagine it’s really the first great movie of the fall season, and we’ll see how the rest of the Oscar bait stacks up in the coming weeks.