Affleck and Damon, together again

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remember "Good Will Hunting"? It has been 13 years since Matt Damon and Ben Affleck co-wrote and co-starred in the movie that made them both stars, won them both Oscars, and forever made it acceptable to say "How do you like 'dem apples?" to your friends after winning a bar bet. Their careers are forever linked because of the way they arrived together.

They then set out on their own. Damon did "Saving Private Ryan," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Ocean's Eleven." Affleck did "Reindeer Games," Pearl Harbor" and "Gigli." Ugh.

Understandably, after "Gigli" and an ill-advised relationship with Jennifer Lopez, Affleck basically took a break. Then, under the radar, he reemerged a couple of years ago with a new Jennifer (the much better choice of Garner), and a new skill: directing. 2007's "Gone Baby Gone," about a little girl who gets stolen for her own good, was very well done. He chose not to headline the cast for that one, giving the lead to his brother Casey instead, but he has gone with the triple-threat role in "The Town" (writer, director, and actor).

"Gigli," shmigli. Ben Affleck is back and better than ever.

"The Town," which Affleck co-wrote with Aaron Stockard (his writing partner on "Gone Baby Gone") and Peter Craig, is based on the novel "Prince of Thieves" by Chuck Hogan. It follows four friends who have become the most capable group in Charlestown, just outside of Boston. In Charlestown, if you are the most capable, that means you are very good at robbing banks. While the group is made up of four, the two men we get to know best are Doug (Affleck) and James (Jeremy Renner). In all, the film includes three heists, and the first one begins with the opening frames.

Doug, James and the two others don masks and automatic weapons and quickly take over the lobby of a Charlestown bank. Three important things happen here. First, we get to see just how capable the crew is. Second, it becomes immediately clear that James is about as stable as a rabid dog after he bludgeons a bank employee for no real reason. Third, through no fault of her own, bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) has her world intersect with these four Charlestown men. For no real valid reason (something James is guilty of a lot), James decides to take Claire as a hostage when they make their getaway. They turn her loose, but when James realizes she lives nearby he feels like that is something he might need to take care of. Hint, hint. Doug talks him out of the sort of permanent solution James is itching to make happen and follows Claire himself to decide if she is a threat.

Any good tale needs a love interest, so why not have one where the secret looming over them from the start is something so tantalizing? Fairly early on, Claire confides in Doug about her scary ordeal at the bank. "I'm sorry," he says. "It's not your fault," she replies. Ha! We are, of course, supposed to root for Doug and Claire to make it. Meanwhile, Doug has Charlestown (namely the certifiable James) insisting on one more job. The FBI (lead by Jon Hamm) is closing in and a happy ending seems like too much to ask for. Essentially, it is a race to see who can ruin Doug's life before he can get out.

I won't spoil "The Town" for you by telling you how it all plays out. You should see it yourself. For those keeping score at home, by the way, Affleck has retaken the lead on Damon. I'd rather see "The Town" three more times than sit through "Green Zone" again.

Your serve, Matt.

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