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MOVIE REVIEW: The Town

Ben Affleck's "Bad Will Hunting"

The Town: Rates a D+.
Courtesy photo

This movie was Bad Will Hunting. There were pieces of dialogue that sounded like a gangster version of Good Will Hunting. Hell, one scene with the couple even takes place at the same outdoor table in the same location Minnie Driver and Matt Damon were at in Good Will Hunting.

I enjoyed Ben Affleck's directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone, but this movie doesn’t work for me.

It’s one of those films I sensed wouldn’t work for me during the trailers.

You see, if a group of bank robbers decide they want to watch over a witness after the fact, to make sure she doesn’t talk to the police – I already have a number of reasons as to why that’s faulty logic (they were wearing masks, so who cares what she says, for starters).

And when Affleck starts talking to her and immediately falls hard, you wonder why he’d jeopardize things (in a completely goofy scene where she talks about the crime, and he asks a series of follow-up questions that had me wondering if he was going to say “Do the police think maybe I’m a suspect?”). He even slips and mentions her Prius. She asks “How do you know I have a Prius?”

By the second date, they’re already talking about running off to the Bahamas together or something. It’s ludicrous.

And don’t even get me started on how silly the scene is with Affleck sitting outside her apartment, staring at a drivers license he stole from her. For being smart criminals, that seems like a dumb move. She told the cops they threatened to rape and kill her if she talks to the police and they know her license was taken. I’m guessing they might have her place staked out. A criminal in a car holding her license up to compare the face, might arouse suspicion.

I also wondered why in this movie everyone talks tough, not realizing that’s probably not going to work in their best interest. That could be the FBI interrogating someone in a bar, or Jeremy Renner (who was great in Hurt Locker and is great in this); or even the head crime boss – who says things to Affleck to keep him from leaving his “crew.” The things he said wouldn’t have convinced him to stay, and you wonder why he didn’t get a punch in the mouth.

Affleck not only directs and acts, but co-wrote the script. He does a nice job of pacing and creating a gritty atmosphere of a working-class Boston neighborhood. I’m not sure why I needed to see him in various Boston sports team apparel. We get it. You’re in Boston. (And wouldn’t it be more realistic to have the thugs wearing Raiders gear? Just sayin’.)

Just like George Clooney in The American, this deals with a guy that’s going to get out after one last job, and things go wrong. And just like The American, we get to see him working out with lots of tattoos. Unlike The American, it’s not boring.

The day I got home from this movie, I saw Layer Cake playing on cable. Not only is it a great crime drama, but I remember a few of my friends complaining that the English accents were hard to understand. I found the Boston accents in The Town hard to understand at times.

I also thought it was odd that the theatre I was in had a crowd that laughed at every silly line. It wasn’t that funny. And someone needs to explain to me why the crowd was rooting for the criminals and against the FBI. Nothing the criminals did would make them endearing to you. They beat suspects lying on the ground, they shoot guards, etc.

Affleck said in one interview, he went to a few jails and talked with the FBI and police. I wish he would’ve instead talked to Martin Scorsese, or maybe just rented Mean Streets and Goodfellas.

Rebecca Hall, an actress I really enjoy, is fine in her part as the love interest. I just hate the script she’s saddled with. I also hate a few of the decisions she makes later in the movie. Oh, and there’s a goofy ending at an ice skating rink with kids playing hockey that’s just as hokey an ending Traffic, with Benico Del Torro watched kids play Little League.

There were so many times in this movie I thought about ways to make this script tighter and more realistic. I even thought of some humorous lines that would’ve worked; for example, when the kidnap victim first tells Affleck “I have something I want to tell you,” he merely says “Alright.” He knows it’s going to be about the bank robbery. How about having him say “I knew it. You’re married. Every time I meet a perfect woman in a laundromat this happens.”

It baffles me that critics are going to praise this, yet a movie like Takers (from a few months earlier) is slightly better and got bad reviews.

I even thought of songs that might improve the picture (The Standell’s Dirty Water came to mind).

I thought this was a sophomore slump for Ben Affleck, but I’m going to be alone on this. As I’m writing, I hear Jay Leno saying it’s one of the best movies of the year.

It is slightly better than most heist films, so on that curve, I’d probably give it a C+. If I’m merely grading it on what I thought of it as a movie, I can’t go higher than D+.