Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Movie Review: "The Town"

Charlestown is a blue-collar neighborhood in Boston that, at least through the lens of Ben Affleck’s slickly made crime thriller “The Town,” is rife with generations-long criminal activity – a malignant livelihood passed down from father to son.

Captaining complicated carjackings, bank heists and armed robberies is the legacy handed to Doug MacRay (Affleck), the brains behind a four-man team of white trash crooks with a penchant for getting away clean after each successive theft.

Streetwise Doug knows the gang’s luck can’t last forever, and after he and his boys take a pretty bank manager hostage following a particularly daring bank job, that already taut time frame tightens considerably.

It’s an interesting set-up, and Affleck, who co-wrote the screenplay and also directs, has an eye for the ugliness of the streets as well as the desperate and damaged people that populate them.

Where Affleck’s not so adept is forming a firm and coherent narrative to go along with those moody shots of Charlestown’s back alleys, bars and businesses. During its overlong two-hour run time, “The Town” doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a love story, a character-driven drama, or a balls-out heist-and-chase flick.

Instead, all of these elements are incongruously mixed into a clichéd stew that borrows from “Point Break” and more obviously from Michael Mann’s far superior “Heat,” with requisite “Fahk you, ya queeya” South Boston accents generously nicked from “The Departed” and the Affleck-scripted “Good Will Hunting.”

Despite a couple of compelling performances, most notably Jeremy Renner as Doug’s sociopathic best friend, “The Town” goes down too many well-trod paths to stand out as anything more than another Southie-inflected, wanna-be-“smaht” crime caper.