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Time Out New York Project: Issue #781, September 16-22, 2010
Dir. Ben Affleck. 2010. R. 125mins. Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm.
Ben Affleck’s second feature directorial effort (after the neonoir Gone Baby Gone) strives for authenticity. Real locations, in and around the Massachusetts neighborhood of Charlestown, are inventively used. Much of the supporting talent is culled from the world-weary local populace. And the sorta-starry leads do their best to affect those unique “Bah-stun” cadences that make the uninitiated do “you puttin’ me on?” double-takes. But there’s more than a few things off in this tale of a disillusioned professional thief (Affleck, dull), his unlikely inamorata (Hall, wasted) and the determined FBI agent (Hamm, solid) out to apprehend him.
The love affair is the main culprit: Hall’s Claire Keesey is the manager of the bank that Affleck’s Doug MacRay and his Skeletor-mask-wearing crew (among them The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner) take down in the opening scene. She didn’t see their faces, but still becomes a potential threat when the thieves realize she lives in their neighborhood. MacRay follows her to see what she knows, though the surveillance is surprisingly tension-free. Affleck doesn’t exploit the possibilities of the pursuit, which ends all too quickly with a laundromat meet-cute, and would require the visceral charge of Hitchcock in Vertigo mode to paper over the credulity-straining aspects of the duo’s resulting relationship. (They’re practically planning to hightail it to the tropics on the first date.)
It doesn’t help that MacRay’s believably blue-collar dissatisfaction with his line of work is slowly set aside in favor of superheroic flourishes. His gun-to-the-groin confrontation with a hammy Pete Postlethwaite (as the crooks’ florist fence) is a particular low point, though it’s outdone by a hilariously unearned final shot that tries to graft some faux-redemptive back-to-nature poetry onto all the somber bloodletting.—Keith Uhlich
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