[Gabe Liedman is a stand-up comedian. In his new column, he takes on the genre of Dude Flicks, where guns, pecs, car crashes and glib one-liners delivered in front of a burning building with only half a t-shirt on and nothing left to lose reign supreme. He loves those movies for so many reasons, all of which are that they turn him ON.]
Remember in Armageddon when Ben Affleck takes Liv Tyler out to some weird deserted shack and sticks an animal cracker in her panties before he goes to space? Well, The Town is weird, too. It’s like three lame movies chewed into one, and the resulting Now ‘n Later of a film is … less than perfecto. THE Ben Affleck directed it, and very bravely cast himself in the lead role, a trick better left to the professionals, like Drew Barrymore or Barbra Streisand. It’s a movie about brotherhood, telling lies, being a GREAT-looking dude, and Boston—a killer formula. Unfortch, The Departed she is not.
Now, it’s tasty, in its way, to be sure. I mean, Ben Affleck is in BEYOND fighting shape here—genetically, he is like naughty Superman. There’s a pretty … artistic… pushups montage buried deep in The Town that in itself is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The slop around it? Less so.
The town that The Town is about is a tiny little section of Boston called Charlestown—a rough-n-tumble neighb where the men have sexy haircuts and the women do aaaaaall the drugs. Also, it’s home to more bank robbers than anywhere else in the whole world—or at least that’s what some text at the beginning of the movie tried to tell me. However, according to the FBI, whose job it is to keep track of such things, that’s not even remotely true: the whole state of Massachusetts accounts for less than 3% of all bank robberies nationwide. Maybe they commute? By plane? In their Starter jackets?
Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner (who’s good enough at acting to make my locker hurt a tiny bit), and some other dudes, play a gang of townies who fucking love to steal money from banks. When they’re not at work, they love to chill out in fancy sweatpants and have different opinions about whether it’s cool to murder people in addition to stealing their money. Jeremy Renner thinks it’s VERY cool. The coolest. Ben Affleck disagrees, but what’s he gonna do?
During the opening heist, the gang (dressed as zombies with dreadlocks) all use their machine guns to talk Rebecca Hall, a yuppie bank employee, into opening up the vault for them. She agrees that that seems like a cool idea (the machine guns make a great point, after all), but then she does some real yuppie shit and hits the silent alarm with her foot. The zombies decide to steal her AND the money from the bank. When they drop her off later, unharmed, they steal her driver’s license, and tell her “if you talk to the FBI, we’re gonna come to your house, fuck you, and kill you.” Hot. How do I get in touch with the FBI again? Then they look at her license, and it turns out she lives in Charlestown, too. What a neat coincidence!
Jeremy Renner is nervous that she’s definitely going to talk to the FBI, so he suggests murdering her just for safety. Ben Affleck has a different idea: he follows her to a local laundromat, then turns up the townie charm and asks her on a date. Normal. More normal: she accepts, even though she is one traumatized “toonie” (townie slang for ‘gentrifier’—you know, someone who wears jeans and shaves their soul-patch area bald) who was just abducted at machinegunpoint by someone who has the exact same voice as Ben Affleck.
I’m psyched as fuck for Rebecca Hall that she got this big paycheck. For those of you who don’t know, or care, about her, she’s the not-Scarlett Johansson from Vicky Christina Barcelona, and more importantly, she’s the star of 2010’s #1 best movie by A THOUSAND points Please Give. In The Town, she is miserably miscast, but I choose not to care. I’d watch this girl play Ghengis Khan just to know she’s busy, out of the house, and getting paid to act.
Rebecca Hall tells Ben Affleck that indeed she did go to the FBI, played by Jon Hamm. Jon Hamm thinks it’s super suspicious that a bunch of muder-y bank robbers would just drive her to the beach and not rape her or anything, so he decides to majorly keep in touch.
So, Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall keep dating, and kind of fall in love before they even fuck? And then they do fuck, but it’s like—wouldn’t you guys have done this a looooong time ago? And their chemistry is beyond nonexistent—why the fuck do you guys like each other again? I thought this was a trick or something? It’s just, I think, supposed to be a love story from two different sides of the tracks, so to speak, and eventually, people on both sides of tracks find out about it. First, Jeremy Renner catches them on a lunch date, out for toonie-fish sandwiches or whatever, and is not pleased. Then Jon Hamm figures it out and is like “THIS IS SOMETHING ELSE SUSPICIOUS.”
The fake-tarded relationship with Rebecca Hall starts to make Ben Affleck want to change his ways and get out of the bank robbery business, but Jeremy Renner and his scary Irish mob boss, played by the priest of Romeo + Juliet from the ‘90’s (who, by the way, has gone on some Machinist-style crash-diet for no reason, is he super sick?), won’t let his best boy go without a fight. So Ben Affleck does another nutty heist, the one with the insane nun costumes, which is actually very exciting and well-shot—great car chases down tiny North End Boston side streets and terrifying shoot-outs to boot.
Then it’s time for the one-last-job before Ben Affleck gets to leave the game for good, or something. Hilariously, the final heist is a MAJOR robbery of Fenway Park, not a bank. Boston!
Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner look BANGIN as they strut through Fenway Park sometimes dressed as cops and sometimes dressed as EMTs, but other than that, this is the moment when The Town irreversibly becomes The Tard.
I won’t go into what happens and spoil this movie for everyone, because quite simply, other than this one, its reviews are glowing and I assume most people will still see it. Suffice it to say, shit happens, and at this point, watching the movie, when you’ve already sat through a half-assed romance-drama and a half-assed tough-guy buddy-flick, you’re still in store for an extremely half-assed Bourne-wannabe action-statement about who people really are deep down.
By the end credits, my sold-out theater was laughing hysterically, and I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one didn’t show up to The Town expecting 3 different mediocre style pieces humped into one big pile, even if that humping WAS done by such a fine specimen of maleness as Ben Affleck. It has its moments of excitingness and bone-appeal, but to say it ‘didn’t add up’ is an insult to arithmetic.
If there is one simply-pitch-perfect performance in this iced Manwich of a movie, it is Blake Lively as an Oxycontin-and-coke-addicted single mom with tarantulas for eyelashes and speech so slurred you’d swear she was just burping. She’s only in about five scenes, but she demolishes them with accuracy, uninhibited-ness, beauty, and straight-up skill. Let Oscar season begin TODAY, and let Blake Lively sweep that shit, Temple Grandin style.