The best line in The Town, Ben Affleck's second directorial effort after his masterful Gone Baby Gone in 2007, will go missed by many because of its subtlety.
Most of what made Gone Baby Gone so memorable were the seemingly minor details that we picked up on during a second viewing. The throwaway lines, the quick glances, and so. The Town is just like that. Is it better, or even as good as Affleck's first? I'm not too sure, let's find out.
We are offered quotes in the beginning of the film stating that the troubled, crime ridden, Boston neighborhood of Charlestown has produced more bank robbers than any other neighborhood in the world. The Town is the story of four of them.
Doug (Affleck) heads a team of thorough thieves who knock off armored cars and banks. He leads the crew with of his intelligence and precision, while his best friend, Jim (a flawless Jeremy Renner), enforces all the violently necessary tasks.
After the crew has to resort to nabbing a hostage (Rebecca Hall), they get some serious heat from the FBI, namely a go-for-broke agent (Jon Hamm).
With The Town, Affleck proves that Gone Baby Gone wasn't a fluke; the dude can direct. Period.
In this film, he so perfectly stages a car chase that it reminds us of The French Connection. And a lengthy, detailed shoot out can be mentioned in the same breath as Heat. But beyond his excellence use of technique (dropping and bring back sound, reversing a time-lapsed sunset) Affleck will grow to be known as a guy that can seriously direct his actors.
Fresh off his should-of-won-the-Oscar performance in The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner steals every second he's on screen. As a psychopathic, tatted up badass, Renner outacts every one in the picture, which is saying a lot.
You've seen Rebecca Hall in a few things (The Prestige, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Please Give), but she's never been better than she is here. The "babe in the woods" routine of a hostage falling for her captor has been done tenfold, but not with Hall's convincing charm.
But by far the biggest surprise comes in the form of a young, smoldering blonde named Blake Livley.
I've never seen Livley act before (sorry, no Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Gossip Girl... shocker) for which I am grateful. As Doug's coked-out, oxy'd-up ex, Lively draws us in so convincingly, we forget who she is. Don't make the mistake of crediting her beauty. With a performance like this, looks have nothing to do with it. There's a scene she plays with Hamm that demands a broad range of emotions in a matter if seconds. She nails it. Lively does what Amy Ryan did in Gone Baby Gone, only better. Oscar, pay attention.
If there are faults in the film, they come from Affleck the actor. He's had his moments in previous roles, and he does all right here, but I kept thinking how much more I would believe his character if it was played by someone else (Bale? Damon? Norton?). Oh well.
The Town stands pretty damn tall against the other crime "thrillers" released this year (The Losers, Takers, Armored). But that's not saying much. Everyone should enjoy this movie. It ain't perfect, but it's the work of a very skilled, only-to-get-better director.
Oh and that line. Towards the end of the film, Hamm reads a brief note that was left on his car. His silent reaction is amusing, but watch who he hands it to and listen to what he says when he does it. It's as perfectly-timed as anything he's delivered as Don Draper. Blink and you'll miss it. A-