Suck it, Damon!

The Town proves Affleck is on the rise With The Town, writer/director/star/unfair-target-of-derision Ben Affleck pumps two armor-piercing rounds into jokes about his being the lesser of the creative forces behind his joint Oscar win with hetero-life-partner Matt Damon. Eff that noise, whatever Affleck’s staggeringly brilliant freshman directorial effort Gone Baby Gone didn’t prove, this clip-emptying, Heat-channeling, character-sketch-inside-of-a-heist-movie does. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Within the next two decades, the synonym for actor/director will be Affleck, not Eastwood. Opening with a truly post-“CSI” bank robbery, complete with bleach pouring and total forensic awareness, The Town introduces Doug MacRay (Affleck). A former small-time hockey pro, MacRay has an engineer’s mind and a criminal’s DNA; the latter has a gravitational pull collapsing his life like a dying star. During the robbery, Doug’s lifelong pal and increasingly looser loose cannon James (Jeremy Renner) takes bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Although they were fully masked, the gang fears Claire may reveal something to their FBI pursuer Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm), so MacRay strikes up a risky relationship to probe her mind … and subsequently other things. Claire, unaware she’s now under the sheets with the guy under the mask, is that omnipresent fixture in crime movies: She’s the gal you’d go straight for. But MacRay has multiple albatross anchors preventing his flight, most notably criminal mastermind “The Florist” (Pete Postlethwaite), MacRay’s former girlfriend and current pill-popping cokehead Krista (Blake Lively) and James, who can’t bear to let him go. All this adds up to the falling anvil that is “the last job.” What Affleck’s familiar Boston safety blanket lacks in the use of the letter “R,” it makes up for in atmosphere. Refusing to succumb to the Bourne Identi-ifcation of action sequences, the steadily shot crime feels real because of place, and the characters feel real because of Affleck’s uncanny ability to coax quietly intense performances. For instance, when Claire and MacRay’s believable courtship is interrupted by an accidental encounter with James, the subsequent tension is as brutal as Hans Landa’s pastry consumption in Inglourious Basterds. Everything from the assault rifle discharges to Krista’s heartbreaking revelations hit, and hit hard. Unlike The Departed with its kamikaze F-bomb droppage and nearly entirely yelled dialogue, The Town only raises its voice when it has to. This is not to say that The Town exceeds the quality of Scorsese’s Best Picture winner, but the fact that it is the obvious comparison point here should be enough for Affleck to walk tall. Take that, Matt Damon. GRADE: A

posted at 12:29 pm
on Friday, September 24th, 2010

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