With the way that not only his best friend Matt Damonís career has taking off to the highest of plains, but also his brotherís Casey, Ben Affleck was probably starting to think that he was Scotch mist. It canít help that his choices in projects in the last decade have been more miss than hit. Even when he put in a great performance as TVís Superman George Reeves in 2006ís Hollywoodland, it was mostly ignored by the masses.
He got behind the camera for his acclaimed directorial debut in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone; The Town sees him take on both acting and directing duties, serving as a double whammy reminder that thereís still life in the older Affleck yet.
Charlestown, Massachusetts is a small town in the suburbs of Boston with a rather unfortunate reputation: for being home to more criminals in its square mile than anywhere else in the States, making it the unofficial bank robbery capital of the USA.
Itís largely made up of an Irish population, many of whom are, well, criminals. Four friends who live in the area are part of that criminal fraternity. They pull off a robbery in Cambridge almost to perfection; they take the bankís manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage, then set her free by the shore.
As she had direct contact with the robbers, FBI agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) and his team are keen to find out if she can shed any light on who the culprits were. At the same time the culprits are also keen to keep an eye on Claire, to see if she does have anything to tell the FBI.
In an attempt to get close to her, Doug (Ben Affleck) volunteers to keep tabs on her on behalf of the gang. This is mainly due to the fact that he doesnít trust any of the others not to do anything stupid, like kill her.
But when he gets too close to her, he ends up putting Claire in even more danger. Not only does it cause friction between himself and cohort Jem (Jeremy Renner), but it also makes the FBI even more curious. Before he knows it, Doug has seemingly less control over his own destiny.
With two films now under his directorís belt, Affleck appears to have attained a certain comfort zone; both films are set in or around his adopted city of Boston; and both fall under the genre of crime. If he continues to make further films in a similar vein there wonít be a problem if he maintains these high standards.
Where he shows a lot of savvy is in the casting; sure he cast himself in the lead, but he also had the smarts to surround himself with some very capable talent. Hamm does well to shake off the glamorous shackles of Mad Menís Don Draper, with a convincing turn as an FBI agent; Renner also gives a gritty account of himself with the slightly unhinged Jem; bringing up the rear are appearances by Chris Cooper and the late, great Pete Postlethwaite.
One of the perks of catching this title on Blu-ray in particular is the fact that it features a directorís cut, which gives the film almost a half hour of extra footage. This version certainly slows the pace down quite considerably, but it does a good job of fleshing out the characters.
Whichever version you catch, you may want to think about putting on the subtitles in places; the Boston accent that Affleck and some of the other cast members adopt is so thick in places, itís almost like deciphering a code.
Although Affleck also has a co-writing script to add to the list, the story itself, adapted from Chuck Hoganís novel Prince of Thieves, has little in the way of surprises. As crime heists go, The Town doesnít get away with anything new. Instead Affleck for the most part focuses on the emotional fallout, which he does with a fair amount of success.
At this stage itís unclear whether Affleck is taking the Eastwood approach to his career, with the long term goal being that of directing more and acting less. But what heís shown with The Town is that heís far from dead and buried on either front. Now if he could just be more fickle about the projects he chooses from now on, it would be better for all concerned.