October 6, 2010

Bad Boys

Two movies that came out around the same time had me rooting for the bad guy. All because they are seeking personal salvation. After that One Last Job of course.

In The American, George Clooney plays a mysterious assassin (who goes by Jack or Edward) whose last assignment goes awry. He decides to lie low in a small Italian village, befriending a priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), and an, erm... prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido). His handler Pavel (Johan Leysen) convinces him to take one final assignment, assuring him that he doesn't even need to pull the trigger this time. He only has to customize the weapon for the female assassin Mathilde, played by Thekla Reuten. Jack/Edward wants atonement. The priest and the fallen woman also want redemption for this sinner. We don't always get what we want though. The film's ending was devastating to me.

George Clooney gives one of the best performances of his career. There are many scenes without dialogue or music. Mr. Clooney gets to show us again that he's not just a pretty face. I loved this film for its subtlety, the beautiful cinematography, its restraint. Dutch director Anton Corbijn shows us that a good action movie/spy thriller doesn't have to be loud and CGI-heavy, nor have clever quips, buzz words, or catch phrases. He gave us a thoughtful, meandering, subdued film that haunted me.

The Town is not quite the typical Hollywood blockbuster either. It is a smart, funny, and taut thriller about bank robbers from Charlestown, Massachusetts and the FBI's efforts to catch them. Ben Affleck's second directorial offering is a worthy follow-up to Gone Baby Gone. He stars as Doug MacRay, a gang leader who falls in love with the hostage/bank manager Claire (the excellent Rebecca Hall), much to his partner/BFF Jem's chagrin. (a twitchy, scary, unpredictable Jeremy Renner, as exceptional as he was in The Hurt Locker) Jon Hamm is FBI Agent Frawley. Mr. Hamm has the thankless job of trying to win the audience's sympathy in his quest to catch the handsome bad guy who just wants a normal life with his girlfriend. Frawley is not above using Claire and Doug's druggie ex-girlfriend Krista (Blake Lively---who was quite good) to catch him. The cat and mouse game is ON.

Watch out for brief but goose bump-inducing scenes with Chris Cooper (as Doug's father) and Pete Postlethwaithe (as an Irish criminal with a seemingly harmless occupation---florist). Even Victor Garber has a cameo. Mr. Affleck has a flair for action scenes and building up the nail-biting suspense. Bonus: I used to live near Boston so I truly enjoyed seeing Beantown and its inhabitants. So if you're looking for a good heist movie, you might want to take a turn around the Town.

(The American poster from Cinema Blend; The Town from Screen Crave)


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