Toronto Review: Ben Affleck's New Crime Drama 'The Town'
by Alex Billington
September 11, 2010
And here we go… My very first movie of the Toronto International Film Festival this year was Ben Affleck's sophomore directorial effort The Town, based on Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves. Before I get into this, I want to preface it by saying that I'm a huge fan of Affleck's first film Gone Baby Gone, it's one of my personal all-time favorites, I loved it through and through. That said, The Town is not one of my favorites, not by a long shot. It's a solid film with some fantastic performances, but heavily flawed, with the script and dialogue being the weakest parts of it. I couldn't ever really get into it, and damn was Blake Lively terrible.
It's honestly very hard for me to say that I didn't really like The Town, but I've got to be true to my feelings, and that's how I felt walking out. In fact, throughout the entire film, I couldn't ever get into it. First off, the audio in our screening room was screwed up and it sounded like they turned off the surround sound so all we heard was mono audio from the center. I tried to look past it, but some of the action moments felt dull because of it. And overall I thought the film, especially the characters and story, lacked direction, like it was just Affleck trying to show off his home town of Boston while telling a fun popcorn movie story set around it.
Let's start with the positives first. Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm were the highlights, both of them did fantastic jobs in their roles, but that wasn't too surprising considering both of them are already two of the best actors currently working and they lived up to that acclaim. Affleck, on the other hand, should've stayed behind the lens, even though he wasn't bad. However, I don't understand why Blake Lively is getting any acclaim at all - she was awful! All of her scenes felt incredibly fake, very forced, like she was the pretty girl who'd never been in a dirty situation and was just trying her hardest to play a character that didn't fit her actual persona. I couldn't get passed her piss poor acting, but luckily she was only in this for a few scenes.
My biggest issue with The Town is that it felt like a Hollywood story without any polish, without any depth, and without any of the truly fascinating moral questions that Gone Baby Gone brings up. Affleck plays this supposedly brilliant "prince of thieves" who comes up with insanely elaborate criminal schemes, but how, or why - we don't ever find out. He's just smart and that's all we get. The story just jumps around from beat to beat too quickly and Affleck, as the director, never gives the audience the chance to fully get enveloped in the deeper story, he just keeps pushing it along like a glitzy Hollywood crime thriller, not an intricate crime drama (which I know he's capable of, because I saw it Gone Baby Gone). It needed a lot more of that depth.
The Town has been described by many of my colleagues as a popcorn film - and that's exactly what it is. I enjoyed some of parts of it, mostly all of the action scenes, especially in the later half. I thought all of those scenes were technically put together very well and were parts of the movie that I'd actually be excited to see again. But the story, and even the dialogue which felt rough in some parts, too often pulled me out of it. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it was so typical, so unoriginal. Why didn't they go for a braver ending that wasn't as predictable? I think it would've provided more of the depth that this so desperately needed.
Obviously these are just my own feelings about the movie, and I know other people seem to be enjoying it a lot more than I did. I do not think this was better than Gone Baby Gone, at all, and I think Affleck needs to concentrate more on just writing and directing in the future, rather than also worrying about acting and playing an important main character. I think his "experiment" of trying all three jobs didn't work and the film suffered for it. I know Affleck is capable of better, as seen in Gone Baby Gone, but I was immensely let down by his inability to really pull the audience into the story this time. The characters needed more depth and the script was weak. The Town, in my opinion, didn't deliver, and was only good, but far from great.
Alex's Toronto Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 15 Comments
Meh, I'm still seeing it opening night.
Daniel on Sep 11, 2010
Me as well. Hopefully I can knock out the book before I see the film next Friday. BTW, some sweet Blake Lively pics: http://film-book.com/blake-lively-esquire-magazine-february-2010/
ProMovieBlogger on Sep 11, 2010
lol alex the odd man out once again everyone else thinks it is better than GBG and getting rave reviews
nelson on Sep 11, 2010
hmmm...not good eh? oh well...is Blake Lively naked in it?
LINKFX on Sep 11, 2010
Gone Baby Gone was good but not that good I think this looks much better and I think the bad sound in the theater may have hurt Alex enjoyment of this film. The cast alone will have me there opening night well except for Lively I knew when I saw her in the trailer she was going to ruin all the scenes she was in.
CLAW on Sep 11, 2010
I'll still see it. I see it dividing viewers.
Xerxex on Sep 11, 2010
Damn, after that first trailer I thought this would have a 'Heat' level quality to it...guess I was wrong. Think I may still see it though.
Cody w on Sep 11, 2010
i actually agree with almost all you said, i enjoyed it but i didn't like it......
Jericho on Sep 11, 2010
Nelson, Agreed! I will be seing it for sure!
McWilly on Sep 11, 2010
i am going to watch it monday. i have high hopes. good review. the whole feelings, cross referenced w/ evaluation can be a bitch. good review. dam this site. you did a good job. its like being warned but the other person wants to keep you safe........but you go anyway...efffd
mgazo on Sep 12, 2010
Is this a review about The Town or Gone Baby Gone?...geez horrible constructed review
Jeff on Sep 12, 2010
Hmm, I actually feel a bit conflicted about watching this. I was really looking forward to this but I guess I'll wait till later on in the week until more reviews surface in order to make my final decision. Sorry you had a lousy movie-going experience with the screwed up audio. With all the awesome-looking gunfights shown in the film, that can certainly be a real mood killer.
IceFilm on Sep 13, 2010
My filmmaking friend who saw an advanced screening of this a few months ago thought the same...She did not pan it, but she said it was overly cliche and unimpressive. As the critic said, it was not bad--just not great. Interestingly enough, the majority of the early reviews seem to be quite glowing. Is it true that critics are paid by the studios to write rave reviews to hype up certain movies and/or actors??? I don't know if I'm in the minority here, but I more often than not always find myself at odds with established critics (and The Academy for that matter.) Regardless, thank you for your honest review!
Teal on Sep 13, 2010
#11 - I agree. Why the f#$! compare this film to "Gone Baby Gone", which by the way, was also good but not great. Take that mind set along with the bad audio and you were never going to give this film any credit. Try reviewing with an open mind and spare us the irrelvant comparisons.
Waste of Time on Sep 23, 2010
Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it wasn't that great. Still don't know about the RAVE reviews, but this had stereotype written all over it. Also it felt shallow and the force-fed love story didn't help either. Some great work from Renner but on the whole it was a let down. In short, it you want to see HEAT, go see HEAT. But that's just my two cents:P
Marc on Sep 27, 2010
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