Once upon a time I watched a little movie called Argo, and it was awful. To my eyes, there were no characters in the entire thing, and there was no character conflict, either. Because of that experience, I generally don’t get excited about movies that were directed by Ben Affleck (although I do actually like him as an actor and think he’s a pretty good one). But I’ve been watching a bunch of heist movies lately, so I decided to check out The Town.
And holy fuck was it good! Like, shockingly good. The movie always seemed really generic to me. Like here are some handsome guys who rob banks and another handsome guy wants to catch them. The End.
But it was really well-grounded in place. Boston felt so real. And not just the rundown Charlestown where the bank-robbers come from, but also the yuppified Boston that we’ve all come to know and love. Both of these places coexist in the same neighborhood, and the movie switches back and forth between them in a shocking manner (particularly when violence breaks out).
And Baffleck and Jeremy Renner are both really well-characterized, although I will say that Renner is a bit too much the hothead / loose cannon character who appears in every single heist movie in order to fuck things up at the last minute so that everything can go to hell without it being the hero’s fault (not saying that happens in this film, though).
I watched the extended cut, and it felt extended. At one point, Affleck and his love interest had exactly the same conversation (about his parents) that they’d had in a previous scene! Like seriously, things get cut for a reason. This movie would’ve been way better at two hours.
One thing I’m interested in with heist films is the way they’re driven by the protagonist’s desires. In most action films, there’s a point at which the antagonist takes over and becomes the driver of the action. In heist movies, it’s never like that. There’s always a sense that they could possibly walk away. And I think it makes for a better movie, in many cases, because you have to work to justify what’s happening. In this movie, Ben Affleck has to continually choose to be the guy who robs banks. No matter how much he might struggle or whine, that’s what he is. He could do something different, but he doesn’t.