It’s hard to believe Affleck is from Boston, because his Baws-tawn accent in 2010’s The Town sounds so fake to my ears. That’s unfortunate, because he is the star of the picture. It’s also strange, since he was directing himself.
He’s not a bad director, actually. His pictures so far have not had any distinct style that announces each is a “Ben Affleck film”, but he has yet to make any self-indulgent fiascos. Instead, he makes perfectly competent movies and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I only ended up watching this because it is a heist movie and I am huge fan of that genre. There will actually be three heists dispersed evenly across the runtime.
These operations are organized by the extraordinary actor Pete Postlethwaite out of a flower shop. I cannot recall a bad performance from him in anything I have seen. He is especially good at playing bad guys, so he effortlessly exudes menace as he casually threatens Affleck while delicately pruning roses. Just like in real life, the most dangerous people rarely have to raise their voice or put on a tough guy act.
There’s more than threats to his life that ensure Affleck has to keep doing these jobs even when he’s trying to leave the life. There is also some considerable emotional baggage from Jeremy Renner, as his best friend, and Blake Lively, as Renner’s sister and the mother of what may be Affleck’s child. Their family took in Affleck as a boy after his mother disappeared and his father went to prison.
Unfortunately, Renner is the loose cannon in their den of thieves. He’s prone to unexpected moments of violence, such as the pistol-whipping he administers to an employee of the bank in the first heist. Too bad he was distracted enough while doing this that he isn’t aware the tattoo on the back of his neck is showing.
Rebecca Hall, playing a bank employee who doesn’t get pistol-whipped, notices the tattoo. Renner isn’t even aware she has seen it, yet he is insistent she be eliminated as a potential threat. Affleck talks him out of any hasty actions, assuring him he’ll scare Hall into not cooperating with the police.
Instead, he becomes enamored with this woman who is of a better kind of life than he has experienced. Now he doesn’t want to just get out of a life of crime, but he has also found somebody he wants to take with him.
Hall is very good here, as she always is. I just wish she had been given more to do than just be “Affleck’s girl”. It isn’t the kind of role with the complexity she would later demonstrate in one picture after another.
Renner is exhilarating to see playing a character with boundless angry energy. Although he would later find success in a long string of heroic roles, it would be interesting to see him do another role like this someday.
Blake Lively is just OK as a single mother who has given up her dreams and whose only consolations are in booze, drugs and cheap sex. Jon Hamm is solid as a dogged FBI agent, though it isn’t anything we haven’t seen him do in countless similar roles. Still, I really liked a line he says when it is time to find eyewitnesses: “Now we get to the step that wastes time and yields no results.”
As far as the heists go, all three are pretty exciting, though I liked the simple bank job at the beginning the best. There was some interesting details among the seemingly millions of quick edits, such as taking the hard drives from the security system and nuking them in the microwave.
I watched the extended version of The Town, which is roughly a half-hour longer than the theatrical version. Surprisingly, there isn’t much I would have cut from this longer version, and I suspect it improves over the original edit, if only because the scenes have more room to breathe. While not a director of discernable style, Affleck is a solid filmmaker. I just wish he had directed somebody other than himself as the lead.
Dir: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively
Watched on Warner Bros. blu-ray