Monday, September 20, 2010

The Town. A-

Since its premiere at Toronto, The Town has received nothing but praise, and very deservingly so. Yet the film's approbation hasn't gone to the extent of Scorsese's The Departed, but rather it's just been admired as a compelling, satisfying, and overall pretty solid genre piece. Though I didn't expect it to be amazing, I've looked forward to Ben Affleck's followup to Gone Baby Gone for a pretty good while, and I ended up loving it more than most people did. It's juicy, old school pulp on the highest level. I liked this movie the way a lot of people like The Departed, which is to say that I think The Departed is fun but overrated, and this more of a masterpiece than Scorsese's ever so popular 2006 smash. When you watch The Town and then step away from it and examine it from afar, you find that it's a film that doesn't heed to the heist movie template and more importantly, never takes a wrong step. It's a smart story with a cornucopia of sensational dialogues and riveting confrontations. But its mood isn't too pensive, and every time you feel the story lagging, a burst of energy is infused in the form of Charlestown robberies. I think the scene around the middle when the robbers don nun masks will be a new reference point when people talk about great movie heists. Though advertised as an action film, much of The Town is spent dealing with the complexities that come with a robber falling in love with one of his victims. In this case it's Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall as Doug and Claire. The film has been denigrated for this turn in the plot, simply because it's such a major part of the story. Would a bank robber really fall in love with a woman who's bank he's robbed? But it's unfair to say this lacks verisimilitude because Affleck's character is specifically directed to her early on. It's part of his job, not the result of a man's spontaneous sentiments toward a grieving woman. That he falls in love with her is understandable because we know he wants, as he says, " to put this town in my rearview." And seriously, if you complain about the love story here, you have to complain about the ridiculous romantic triangle in The Departed. And to move on in comparisons, The Town has been widely likened to Michael Mann's Heat. And if you've seen both, the similarities are undeniable. But The Town isn't as permissive as Mann's film is. It's characters aren't fully developed, but again, this isn't a flaw. It's simply the result of The Town being a two hour movie when Heat has the freedom to roam on for three. Almost everyone likes The Town, but I feel like I like it more than most. The season has gotten off to a blazing start.

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