Affleck, The Town & Missteps

The Town (R) ★★½ or ★★★

Ben Affleck stars and directs In The Town, a film about cold blooded bank robbers in the corrupt, dangerous town of Charlestown, Massachusetts. If anybody saw Affleck's first stab at directing - Gone Baby Gone- they saw a raw, gritty style that was lacking in Affleck's more recent work as an actor. There was a rebellious style that you didn't find in -say- Gigli. Not to confirm that The Town is a total success. It's a hit and miss movie that has moments of true brilliance and moments of sheer cliche. The action is hit, the drama is miss. Given the fact that it takes time for a director to adjust and mature, I'm giving Affleck the benefit of the doubt with this one.

The good stuff? I liked the way the action was set up, especially the climactic heist which takes place in Boston's legendary Fenway Park. People are not kidding when they sing the praises of this close to 20 minute, tension filled finale. It's the peak of the film and -quite possibly- the best heist sequence I've seen since Heat's climactic finale close to 15 years ago. In that film director Michael Mann mixed character with drama to build up a real classic in the genre- a film that defined a generation of action directors and dared to have Pacino and Deniro go head to head in a film that had as much excitement with its mind games as it had through its violence.

Another high point of the film comes in the form of a car chase scene that takes place in the tightly constructed streets of Charlestown. It's an adrenaline rush that had me admiring Affleck's technically savvy talents for shooting action. Special mention also goes to the bank robbery that opens the film and opens the book on its main characters' judgments and choices throughout the picture. Affleck strives to pull off his own Heat & the influence is all over his picture. Too bad he doesn't pull it off. The flow Mann pursued perfectly in his film is missing here and Affleck seems to be straining to find a narrative style for the film's more dramatic points

Don't get me wrong, I dug the film but Affleck shouldn't have cast himself in the lead role and should have stayed behind the camera this time around. His acting puts a real strain on the story and leaves a coldness to his character and an emotional detachment to the audience. However, casting Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner and John Hamm (Mad Men) shows a great flair for casting and the production values are just top notch but there's something very calculative and cold with it all. I feel like Affleck still has much to grow upon & needs to find better narrative structures to his stories. For the time being, he's on track for better things & seems to be gaining more confidence with his game, he directs The Town in a classical approach reminiscent of late career Eastwood.