Ben Affleck’s admirable effort in The Town won’t matter to those that, “just don’t like his face.” That’s difficult to overcome for an actor, and Affleck’s additional roles as director and co-writer for the film won’t quell the prejudiced army that has dogged his career. But Affleck’s excellent work on The Town may change some opinions.
The Town is about a crew who robs banks and armoured trucks. Such is family tradition in Charlestown we are told. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) leads the crew while James (Jem) Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) acts as his second in command. They rob a bank, take a beautiful woman (Rebecca Hall) hostage, then she is released. Later, Doug starts dating her. Problems ensue.
Someone told Ben Affleck that 90% of directing is casting. Perhaps that’s why the performances in The Town are so remarkable. Chris Cooper as Doug’s Father is so good he has his own theme music – and why shouldn’t he? It’s only one scene in the film but he has to convey oceans below the surface of the dialogue. Jeremy Renner’s aggression as Jem is almost comical in its intensity. Jem reacts to the chance of violence like an erection; all he wants to do is act on his constant desire.
Perhaps it is Ben’s charm that helps the dialogue paint pictures and be funny at the same time. If you’ve seen Pearl Harbour, Good Will Hunting, Hollywoodland, Chasing Lanes, and Gone Baby Gone the perception of his ability is muddled. He told Renner during casing he wasn’t sure he could manage three roles for the film. But The Town needs Affleck’s fondness for Boston. The focus on Boston monuments and the streets of Charlestown are as prevalent as the familial touch between all the characters.
While there is nothing particularly surprising about the plot points of The Town the film is oddly riveting. It’s the unremarkable set pieces that help make some scenes more gripping. For example, a car chase in a family van makes sense as a conspicuous getaway vehicle, and thematically we are much more drawn to root for our bad guys when they struggle to escape several police cars in narrow streets in a caravan.
Hollywood caters to the “book by its cover” mentality. Chris Cooper is too old. Blake Lively is TV-caliber. Ben Affleck is too dumb. But they’ll all dazzle and surprise you if you would give The Town a chance.