TIFF Movie Review: Ben Affleck's The Town

It is the opening day at the Toronto International Film Festival and this morning we screened, back to back, two movies directed by Affleck brothers: Ben Affleck's The Town and Casey Affleck's I'm Still Here. Hit the jump to read my mini review for The Town or watch some video reactions I recorded after the screening with Steve from Collider.

When they first announced that Ben Affleck was going to direct a big screen adaptation of the Chuck Hogan novel The Prince of Thieves, some people were turned off that the film was being retitled The Town. It seems like a strange name for a movie about bank robbers in Boston, but after seeing the film it seems like a very obvious choice.

You see, Ben Affleck is not the star of this movie — the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown is front and center. Affleck's film captures the flavor and energy of this area of Boston, in the locations and the characters. Sure, it is a bit exaggerated — a caricature of the people and the area, but it feels like a loving tribute to the neighborhood which is felt in almost every scene. For example, a car chase sequence is shot in the small claustrophobic streets within the area, giving the film action sequence a different energy.

I think I might prefer this film to Affleck's feature directorial debut Gone Baby Gone. The two films are likely to draw many comparisons as they both feature snapshots of small Boston neighborhoods. But they are almost completely different in every way. While Gone Baby Gone is an indie mystery thriller, The Town is more of a mainstream popcorn movie. If you know this going in, you'll be a lot better off. The story is compelling enough, but some might be turned off that it devolves into a formulaic ending. That said, an action sequence in Fenway Park (which yes, is shown in the trailers) is a must see for Red Sox fans.

Affleck is an actor's director, and leads a strong cast with notable performances: Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively (who is almost unrecognizable in the role, but not quite the level of Amy Ryan) and Chris Cooper (who only appears in the film for one scene).

I recorded a video blog reaction with Frosty from Collider, watch it now below: