Saturday, September 18, 2010

"The Town" solid cops-and-robbers formula

The Town (2010) 
130 min., rated R.

Considering how Hollywood is all about genre films lately, a solidly made piece of genre filmmaking like "The Town" is a treat. In the working-class Boston suburb of Charlestown, Ben Affleck's character Doug MacRay, dreaming of pro-hockey, follows in the same footsteps as his bank robber father (Chris Cooper, making his little screen/jail time count). With his gang of heist men, this is his last score before going clean. The hotheaded Jem (Jeremy Renner) disagrees and wants to do robbery after robbery. After the first heist we see, the thieves take a hostage, bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall). Doug plans a meeting with Claire at a laundromat and she, not know he's one of her former assailants, gets involved with him romantically. 

Affleck, the director and co-writer, affirms he can bring a tasty, tangible Bostonian flavor and a clean, tense style and finesse to a pretty streamlined cops-and-robbers formula, and cast good actors to a T. And Affleck, the actor, does his best work to date (and nails a convincing accent). "The Town" could've been trimmed up a bit and even more complex in some of its characterizations. But it has colorful characters and standout performances. Hall and Affleck make their unbelievable romance believable and give it texture to this cops-and-robbers yarn. Jeremy Renner is electrifiying as an uneasy, short-fused guy who's got the swagger but doesn't go over-the-top. "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm is on the mark as an FBI guy on the criminals' tails who means business. Blake Lively, though initially overdoing the slutty hooker thing, comes a long way here from her "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movies playing Doug's trashy ex-girlfriend. Also, Pete Postelthwaite is sinister as a mob kingpin working as a florist. The opening heist is a bang, the score with the nun-mask disguises is memorable, and the climactic heist at Fenway Park, audacious as that sounds, is a knockout. See, genre movies don't always have to be stale and clich├ęd.

Grade: B +

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