Say what you will about Ben Affleck as an actor. Make jokes, laugh. It's ok, we all have one time or another. I don't really think he's bad. I always thought he was a competent actor could hold his own, but never really got any further than being really good. But Affleck knows how to direct a film. Add this in with GONE BABY GONE and you'll see he's got a long term career ahead of him as a director.
THE TOWN is a heist/last job/rock and a hard place film that follows many of the tropes of the genre, but always finds a nice way to bring something new to the game to keep the film feeling fresh. Many things that I would normally mark a movie down for are dealt with very cleverly. The one that sticks out most for me is a scene involving a tattoo that would give away who a character is to a person who would compromise everything. Normally those scenes make me cringe, but it's dealt with so eloquently that at the end I had to lean over to my friend and comment on how well it was done.
While I may not see this film getting a nom for Best Picture, I do see one for Best Director possibly, and most definitely 2 or 3 best supporting cast. Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER) is absolutely amazing. He's the lit fuse character that steals the show every time he's on screen. He can go from calm and collected to an emotional train heading towards destruction in half a second flat. And you believe every bit of it. This also shows that he's got some range and will be a desired actor from now on.
Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively both deserve best supporting actress noms to go along with Renner's performance. Hall plays a more down to earth, level-headed character who's been broken trying to recover. She delivers everything so naturally and believable. Some scenes call for her being very subtle while others have her break down. Blake Lively really shocked me. Going from SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS and GOSSIP GIRL, I wasn't expecting much out of her. She's only in the movie for 3 or 4 scenes, but she's incredible. 2 of those scenes I was just stunned by her.
Someone who's always worth mentioning in every movie he's in is Chris Cooper. He's only in the movie for one short scene, but he's great. It's one of those times where you don't really fully appreciate how good he is until later on in the movie. You can see there's something underneath his skin that wants to come out, and when it does when he's no longer on screen you look back and realize how great that acting was.
With this being a heist movie, there were some really great action sequences. Working with Michael Bay, Affleck learned how to shoot action. What Affleck does that Bay won't is he holds back a bit which really helps in a film that's more grounded and lets the characters drive the action other than the action itself. When everything's going down, you're caught up in the moment and feels important. The action's also very well shot and there's never a moment where I felt the camera was too close or too shaky to see what was happening. It also got pretty creative with some typical heist set pieces. The shoot outs were great and there was one short scurry around a car that I thought was really cool.
Another thing that really bothers me with these "last job" films is having a real reason to do that last job. Most of the time there's no logical reason for them not to just walk away from it. Even when everything's pointing at it being a bad idea and not to do it, they just go ahead and do it anyway. THE TOWN takes the same principle of the last job, but actually gives a truly legitimate reason forcing them to do this insane last job.
THE TOWN isn't really an action movie though. Yes, it's got a lot of great action, but it's about the characters. Mainly Affleck's Doug. He's a man who's done with his current life and doesn't want to be just another guy who talks about changing his life. He actually wants to do it. Yet everything seems to be going against him. The added dynamic of Hall's Claire is just an added goal and obstacle. It's a doomed match from the beginning but you really want to see it work. Their relationship and arcs do feel natural and do give something to root for.
If I had any problem with the movie it mainly has to do with pacing. It's a slow burn film so the first act will make some audiences yawn and check their watches/phones seeing how much time has passed. It does pepper in some good jokes here and there to ease up the tension in necessary parts of the film, but there is some definite drag to the movie. Some people will also find the film a bit too familiar to other movies of the same nature. One comparison I keep hearing is HEAT. There was a gun fight at the end where I did think of HEAT, but I think it added to the enjoyment for me. The scene it reminded me of is one of my favorite gun fights.
Anyone who automatically tosses this movie aside just because of their dislike of Affleck really needs to get over themselves. Yeah, he can kind of be somewhat of a joke as far as actors goes, but the man can direct. He's going to be a director to keep an eye on. While GONE BABY GONE is the better of his two films, THE TOWN is a worthy follow up and is definitely worth visiting.