The-Town-Poster


TALK OF THE TOWN
The Town is the second film directed by Ben Affleck and it adapts Chuck Hogan’s hard-hitting Boston crime novel, Prince of Thieves, reissued as The Town. Unlike Gone Baby Gone, Affleck has also cast himself in this film. He plays Doug MacCray, a veteran bank robber who comes from the wrong side of the tracks, Charlestown in Boston. He rips off banks with his gang and he never really thinks about what he is doing until he meets bank manageress Claire Keesey (played by Rebecca Hall) during one of their robberies. Their paths cross again after the robbery and what starts as an insurance policy to check that she can’t identify MacCray or any of his accomplices turns complicated. Affleck shows here that he can handle action like an experienced pro as director and he also turns in a performance that is measured, accomplished and quite subtle in places. Support is very solid too: Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as FBI agent Adam Frawley shows that he can be more than just Don Draper and Rebecca Hall makes what could be quite a limited role her own, treading the fine line between vulnerable and intelligent. Pete Postlethwaite as the evil florist (seriously!) Fergus, who has MacCray by the short and curlies, is very entertaining on screen and the actors playing the other members of the gang acquit themselves well, especially Jeremy Renner as the psychotic James Coughlin. Chris Cooper’s cameo as MacCray’s old lag dad is small but pivotal. Heist movies have always provided fine entertainment on the big screen and The Town is only let down by an ending that feels like it’s tacked on to provide MacCray with some redemption. But it’s still a very impressive thriller with some top-notch performances and assured directing. Director Affleck may have a future in Hollywood…


DAYLIGHT ROBBERY?
Michael Mann is a director, like Michael Bay, who is all about the surface. Since he got his start on slick Eighties TV series Miami Vice, that’s not terribly surprising. Public Enemies, his biopic of bank robber John Dillinger with Johnny Depp in the title role and Christian Bale as his adversary Melvin Purvis, looked impressive when the trailer started doing the rounds at the beginning of the year. Now I’ve had the chance to see it, at a press screening last week, I’m afraid that it suffers from the flaws that nearly all of Mann’s films possess. We are treated to a rather meat-and-potatoes account of how Dillinger, after spending years on the FBI’s most wanted list and pursued by agent Purvis, played with nuance by Bale, is tracked down and brought to justice in quite a brutal way. Mann’s film looks elegant and he manages to recreate the Thirties with style and pizazz but structurally Public Enemies is very much by the numbers. The law enforcement who try to apprehend him come across as incompetent and almost Keystone Cop-like in their lack of savvy and there is even a scene where Depp as Dillinger walks into the police station, wandering unimpeded amongst the police. Depp is quite charismatic on screen and you are left cheering for him but Bale, while his performance is understated and probably his best in years, doesn’t have much to work with. There also isn’t any chemistry between Bale and Depp and Public Enemies just isn’t very thrilling as a cinematic experience. If you were to compare it to something like Arthur Penn’s classic Bonnie and Clyde, it isn’t even in the same league. Visually it is impressive but it is a hollow and unemotional experience and it makes you question just how versatile Johnny Depp actually is as an actor. In the hands of another director, Public Enemies could have been a modern movie classic but it falls so short that it is nothing more than an interesting curio with a solid but unengaging cast…