February 1, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The Town

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Town

Today's movie: The Town, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this otherwise run-of-the-mill crime drama just happened to star and be directed by Ben Affleck, and I was curious as to whether this is what got it all its hype, or whether it truly does elevate itself above the usual B-pic like its fans claim.

The reality: Not too bad! Although make no mistake, the plot of this film is about as straight-ahead a B-flick crime drama as it gets -- it's basically the story of a group of bank robbers in a poor area of Boston who screw up their latest job, because of the increasingly crazy and violent nature of one of its members, and end up having to kidnap a good-looking bank manager for a bit to get away; so in order to make sure that she didn't actually witness anything incriminating, Affleck is assigned to keep tabs on her for awhile, which through a series of meet-cute situations leads to them getting into a soul-moving relationship, without either his gang members' knowledge nor her knowledge that Affleck is one of the people who kidnapped her, all while we watch the FBI get closer and closer to actually tracking them down. But it's a ton of character development that really saves this movie, including the persistent post-robbery PTSD we watch the bank manager grapple with (something heist dramas rarely bother acknowledging, the lasting psychological issues of getting kidnapped at gunpoint), and a group of thieves with much deeper layers than is typical for a movie like this, including a fascinating triangle between the hesitant criminal Affleck, his jailed psychotic father (Chris Cooper at his trashy finest), and the neighborhood crime boss who keeps them both under his thumb, the quietly menacing florist played by Pete Postlethwaite in his last-ever role. Now combine this with some truly amazing acting, including what is now the second time in two weeks I've randomly seen Jon Hamm shine in a throwaway minor role (playing here the FBI agent trying to crack the case, while two weeks ago it was Lawrence Ferlenghetti's lawyer in the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl); and then combine all that with what turns out to be a surprising amount of highly satisfying pyrotechnics and car chases at the end, which proves that Affleck was at least paying attention to the technical side of things when starring in that whole series of schlocky big-budget action pics he was in during his youth; and you have a film that truly lives up to its hype, one of those extremely well-done genre pics that film nerds like to point out years later as "forgotten classics," which will undoubtedly be the eventual case with this movie as well. It comes highly recommended, whether or not you're usually a fan of such films.

Strangest piece of trivia: Although the common view is that this was a pet project of Affleck's, the fact is that Adrian Lyne was first hired to direct, with Affleck only called in by studio executives after Lyne's falling out with Warner Brothers. His first cut of the film was an unbelievable four hours; it was trimmed down to two for the theatrical release, while the extended DVD bumps it up to three.

Worth your time? Absolutely

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:07 AM, February 1, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |