Photo titled "A Rabbit Hutch at Hornchurch Convalescent Camp" from the Alexander Turnbull Library, c. 1918
I didn't see Ben Affleck's directing debut, 2007's Gone Baby Gone, but the most memorable line I heard about it was that it proved Ben Affleck could write and direct three quarters of a good movie. I guess the ending of that one was a mess, and early buzz I heard about The Town indicated that it might have the same problem. Having seen the movie, though, I'm happy to report that Affleck can apparently make about 7/8ths of a good movie. The Town has some minor issues, but it's an impressively moody and well-structured crime drama that balances the viewer's sympathies on a knife's edge.
I'll admit that I would have been more interested in a movie where Affleck cast himself as the creepy a-hole cop and put Jon Hamm in the role of the hunky armored-car thief. And that issue may have affected my enjoyment of The Town - the central romance of the movie seemed weak. Affleck gave a passable performance, but he never really made me interested in him as a person, and his kidnap-victim/love-interest Rebecca Hall was a weak-chinned wet spot where a strong female character should have been. The good news is that pretty much everyone else in the cast shone (shined?), with Hamm and The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner giving two of my favorite performances of this year. The other supporting roles were all solid - I especially enjoyed Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite, and (surprisingly!) Blake Lively in small but impactful roles.
The plot of The Town is nothing unique - it's a standard "lovable criminal tries to find a way out of the 'game' as the noose tightens" arc, but the script keeps things moving briskly and gives plenty of room for good performances and pithy dialogue. With two solid directing turns, Affleck has done a lot to absolve himself for his dark days as a rom-com lead. At this point, I need to go see Gone Baby Gone - it may have a messier third act than The Town, but I think that, for me, it will benefit from having a different Affleck in the lead role.
"Brinx Job" by Pavement