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Crime is the Norm in The Town

Ben Affleck has had quite the career comeback. Now when you think of Ben Affleck, you think of him as a respected director. I can remember years ago Affleck starring in many, big budget, crappy films. Pearl Harbor, Daredevil, and the notorious Gigli, all made his name the butt of jokes. But ever since his 2007 directional debut, “Gone Baby Gone,” Affleck has been in the middle of a career comeback.

Based on the novel by Prince of Theives, by Chuck Hogan, Affleck’s sophomore directorial effort centers around a group of close-knit bank robbers from Charlestown, Massachusetts. Chief among this group of bank robbers is Doug MacRay, played by Ben Affleck and his best friend, James “Jem” Coughlin, played by Jeremy Renner. On one bank job, the group briefly takes a bank employee, played by Rebecca Hall, hostage. Things only go down hill after this robbery. The FBI, lead by Jon Hamm, are close on their trail and Affleck’s relationship with their former hostage, Hall, could bring him and his friends down.

Affleck has formed a pretty impressive cast of talented actors, all who succeed in varying degrees of doing a Boston accent. Renner is a standout in the film as hard-edged career criminal and Affleck’s best friend. He brings a level of authenticity to the role. Authenticity also applies to the relationship between Affleck and Renner. At the end of the picture, you really believe the friendship between the two.

Rebecca Hall is also very nice in her role as the love interest and Pete Postlewaite has a nice role, but not a very good Boston accent, as the crime boss who Affleck and Renner work for. Speaking of bad Boston accents, Chris Cooper has a small cameo as Affleck’s jailed father. He’s fine, but it seems like he isn’t even trying for the Boston accent. Blake Lively, known from the TV show, Gossip Girl, is authentic as Renner’s junkie sister and estranged ex-girlfriend of Affleck.

Who did disappoint me in the ensemble cast was Jon Hamm, as the FBI Agent. I found the FBI story line the least interesting aspect of the film’s story. Hamm is never as bad ass as he tries to make this character out to be at times. I probably blame this on the script, written by Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard. Hamm’s a good actor, but he’s not given much to do make this character more than the generic lawman we’ve seen in other crimes films. I didn’t buy that the FBI would be so clueless as to not know about what Affleck and Renner’s crew were up to leading up to the last robbery. It reeks of unbelievability.

There are three robbery sequences in the film and Affleck does a great job of making each one different and unique to watch. A car chase in the middle of the film is exceptionally well done, and the final stand-off between the robbers and the FBI was exhilarating to watch.

Overall, the film never reaches the emotional catharsis at the end, that I think the director is aiming for. But this is still a solid, crime film. I enjoyed this film better than Affleck’s debut, “Gone Baby Gone,” and with this film, Affleck proves that he is not just a one hit wonder.

3 stars

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