Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Friends of Benny Affleck

I wasn't sure if I should go with that headline (an awful pun based on 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle') or with "Ben Affleck's 'Heat'", but both surely apply, and there are homages to both in Affleck's Boston-based crime caper "The Town." The only thing he forgot is repeated trips to the confession booth, or to a wake, or wherever one goes to get wine and communion wafers. The religion of the characters is left out of it for time's sake.
Welp, seeing as how I am such a movie geek to the point of remembering the freakin' TRAILERS for these things, I might as well make it part of my critique, because the trailer did sell the film pretty well for me. On the other hand, I did have a problem with the whole love story angle... if I remember correctly, they pointed out in the trailer that this was a thriller with a twist: the robber falls in love with the sexy young girl who works at the bank. Victor Garber, not so much. Loved him in Titanic, though! I had problems with that plot device in the trailer, and I had more problems with it in the movie. Aren't I a genius? Love me, cherish me. But Ben does what he can with it. It does become a problem later on, and the plot gets complicated as a result.
But let's get back to the meat and potatoes of the film. We got ourselves a fine heist film here with all the modern conveniences that a modern take on the cops 'n robbers genre needs. Jon Hamm plays the proverbial Al Pacino "Heat" role here as the FBI guy hot on the bad guys' trail. Ben Affleck is the proverbial De Niro "Heat" arch-criminal but with a thick Boston brogue. The meeting of Ben and Hamm clearly isn't as epic, iconic, game-changing, what-have-you, as the Heat counterpart, but not many can be. Besides, with Righteous Kill, De Niro and Pacino are an ocean cruise away from being the new post Buddy Buddy Lemmon/Matthau comedy team! Let's face it! And let's hope that it comes to fruition.
So the robbery that opens films like these pretty much goes off without a hitch, but they decide to take bank employee Rebecca Hall along with them during the getaway. Apparently this wasn't Affleck's idea, but he takes a shine to her all the same. Well, Woody Allen did as well, so can you blame a guy? They drop her off and leave her blindfolded and barefoot, much like what was done in Coyle under similar circumstances. She provides the moral dilemma of the movie: is she just another witness to eliminate? Or do she and Affleck live happily ever after?
The courtship begins, right after Ben has a quickie with future Ellen Barkin-in-training, Blake Lively. Usually the woman wants the man to spend the night, but anything REALLY goes these days, as Cole Porter will attest from his heavenly post as he looks down on the modern world in constant, perpetual disbelief. But you see, Krista and Claire represent two 'paths' that Doug MacRay can take with his life. Krista is the same-old-same-old blue collar life, and Claire is the upgrade to the nice part of town. "Dig Dug" clearly has a lot of brushing up to do if he wants to fit in with Claire. Their first meeting was a bit underwhelming as a psychological gotcha game; Claire should've been a little more suspicious, frankly. The communal garden becomes Dougie and Claire's "home base," so to speak. We'll go back there a couple more times.
But now, it's back to the guy stuff. Next robbery, please! This one gets a little messy, but they manage to escape, Ronin-style. Sorry, Spoiler Alert. More plot developments, then the one final score. Enter that venerable character actor, Pete Postlethwaite. Who does he remind me of... James Finlayson, ever so slightly? Guess we'll have to wait for that biopic a little longer. Oh well. SPOILER ALERT: Something for all bad guys everywhere to remember: if you want to get killed, tell someone about how you killed their parents. You just might get your own self killed soon after. Another biopic casting suggestion: Titus Welliver as the lead in the Anthony Bourdain biopic, directed by Steven Soderbergh.
The plotting in Heat was a little more fluid, not so by-the-numbers as you might notice. The Town, sadly, suffers a bit as the end approaches. And I'm being kind: there are plot holes you could drive an armored car through... but I did appreciate the bit where the cops start shooting at the wrong armored car. How do you signal to the cops in an armored car that you're not the bad guy? The dude in this instance does what he can, probably getting very hurt in the process. The crooks that we're rooting for here aren't as prepared as the crooks in Heat, and very much less prepared as the ones in Bandits in their big final escape. Still, the main ones manage to escape: Coughlin and MacRay. Philosophical discussion time: are they not two sides of the same coin? I'll leave that for others to hash out, except to say, yes. Yes they are. And one side of the coin has to die, or at least get re-smelted. More spoilers: Dougie escapes, but manages to leave enough money behind for Claire to donate ice to the local rink in Dougie's mom's name. There's even a nice plaque and everything. On behalf of my cranky friend who watched the movie with me: wouldn't that get Claire into even more trouble than she was already in with the FBI? Wouldn't they ask where the money came from for her to make such a charitable donation? Wouldn't that happen? Or did Dougie set that up before he left? So many questions. And yet, I was entertained nonetheless. Probably won't watch it again, but who's got time to rewatch everything anyway, right? Unless someone wants to get it for me on Blu-Ray, hint hint..... sigh. That never works!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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