Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Town (Rhoades)

“The Town” Is New Shot For Ben Affleck

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

There are more than 300 bank robberies a year in Boston, we’re told. And most of the participants live in an area known as Charlestown. Or “The Town,” for short.

I’ve been there. As well as been in many Boston banks. I even got arrested for carrying a gun there.

Never mind that it was a legally registered pistol in New York State. Massachusetts has a zero-tolerance gun law with a two-year mandatory prison sentence. Thanks to a helpful state cop, I didn’t join all those bank robbers in MCI - Cedar Junction at Walpole. But that’s another story.

In “The Town” – the crime thriller now playing at the Tropic Cinema – a team of bank robbers is being pursued by an FBI agent. The gang is hanging tight until one of them makes the mistake of falling for a bank manager they kidnapped in one of their heists.

Ben Affleck (“State of Play,” “The Sum of All Fears”) and Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) are the two crooks at odds with each other. Jon Hamm (“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” TV’s “Mad Men”) is the special agent on their tail. And Rebecca Hall (“Please Give”) is the love interest caught in the middle.

You’ll also see Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl”) as a former gal pal. And Chris Cooper as the dad who “doesn’t get out much” because he’s serving time at Cedar Junction.

Not only does Ben Affleck star in “The Town” but he directs it as well.

That’s a slightly daunting prospect,” he said, “but we’ll see. I’m nervous but excited. It’s based on a book called ‘Prince of Thieves’ by Chuck Hogan. It’s based on a true fact that there is this neighborhood in Boston called Charlestown where there are more armed robbers per capita than anywhere else in the world. It’s about this group of guys who rob a bank and an armored car. Rather than a heist movie it’s very realistic. You see how the guys really operate and what they really do. It’s about their lives, the connection to one another, and the way that where they live is changing. It’s unusual and kind of complicated for a movie that has a conventional genre at its root.”

Yes, Affleck is looking for a game changer. His career has bounced around like a pinball, from his debut in the Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting” to thrillers like “Armageddon” to indies like “Chasing Amy” to public embarrassments like “Gigli” to his acclaimed directing debut with “Gone Baby Gone.”

However, this is the first time since “Good Will Hunting” that Affleck has worked as both actor and filmmaker in a project. “It’s hard to disavow a movie when you’ve written, directed and acted in it,” says Affleck. “This is an emblem of the person I want to be going forward.”

Warner Bros. views this as a potential actor-director combo of the kind that’s made Clint Eastwood a perennial for them.

For Affleck, it’s not only a possible career reboot but also a chance to hang out in the city where he grew up. “The Boston ambience is as comfortable for Ben as New York is for Scorsese,” notes a Warner Bros. exec.

However, when pushed, Affleck will admit that he grew up in a law-abiding Boston neighborhood full of police officers and firefighters. So his introduction to the criminals of Charlestown came from hiring ex-felons as extras on the set.

“Insuring the ex-convicts,” he said, “was a problem. Even more difficult was persuading parole officers to let these consultants handle guns – even fake ones – in scenes.”

After all, you can’t rob a bank without a gun. Unless you’re Bernie Madoff.
[from Solares Hill]

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