Oh Ben Affleck, where have you been all my life? What a colorful career this man has had over the years. Academy Award winning screen-writer, to action movie hero, to the butt of many a joke around Tinseltown. But then he came back and surprised a lot of people with his big screen directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone.” After a much needed boost to his cinematic street cred, Ben comes back with another hit, this time starring in the movie himself alongside Oscar nominated Jermey Renner as Boston buddy, bad-boy bank robbers balefully boosting bunches of bucks from bountiful banks while being bird-dogged by the Bureau. The tall, dark, and handsome John Hamm plays the chief investigating officer for the FBI, quickly connecting the dotts between the latest crime spree and Affleck’s motley group of rag tag thieves in Charlestown, a city notorious for turning out generations of armed robbers.
The story was nicely paced, flowing back and forth from action to drama with the odd bits of comedy sprinkled throughout. The style was dark and gritty, and you start to see how otherwise good people get swept up in the violence and crime of the neighborhood. Doug MacRay (Affleck) in particular is a man with a good heart, although he certainly has a temper that would make you think twice about crossing him. He owes a debt to his childhood friend James Coughlin (Renner) which he repays by planning and executing bank robberies. Together with teammates Albert and Desmond, their heists are like blitzkriegs: quick, violent, effective. That is until Claire Keesey (Hall) becomes entangled as both a witness and a love interest, forcing Affleck to choose between his team and his girl.
Affleck’s popularity as an actor has been controversial over the last decade, but for me he really knocked it out of the park with “The Town.” I loved his reluctant and multidimensional character played with a great balance of hope, anger, and desperation. Blake Lively’s performance was a pleasant surprise as sister/prositute Krista Coughlin. And there was something else about her I really liked, but can’t quite put my finger on…
Renner was awesome as the tough guy you love to hate, a classic “do anything for your boys” types, so long as they don’t forget their roots. The line between protagonist and antagonist is wonderfully blurred, and there are plenty of times you don’t even know who to root for. Hamm was decent as the get-the-job-done investigator, although honestly I spent so much of his screen time getting lost in those gorgeous eyes of his he could have been delivering his lines in German for all I know. As the character backstories start to get flushed out, you realize the personalities and motivations run deeper than first expected.
As far as the action goes, I enjoyed the experience. This movie was a drama, first and foremost. The characters had depth, the plot wasn’t chalked full of feel-good drivel, and you are not going to like everything you see up on the screen. But hey, this is also a film about sweet-ass bank heists, right? Some great white-knuckle chase scenes, fully automatic shoot outs, and gripping robber/banker interactions. At one point during the movie I got so caught up in the robbery that I threw my own wallet at the screen and starting sobbing uncontrollably, much to the chagrin of my fellow audience members.
So see this movie. See it on that night you and your bud are sitting around the house talking about how awesome “Heat,” and “Ronin,” and “The Departed” were. This one will be right up your (crime) alley.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!