Stayed in sick on Sunday and watched movies.
Hard Times: gritty drama about underground boxing in N’awrlins in the 30s. Starring Charles Bronson and James Coburn.
Some excellent work here by Walter Hill in his directorial debut. Bronson’s poverty, loneliness and taciturn nature are established in the first 5 minutes with some fantastic shots and maybe two lines of dialogue. Compare that to a 21st century story about a street fighter, which would rely on ten minutes of exposition, two flashbacks and a soundtrack featuring T.I. and The Game. (Note: I haven’t seen any 21st century movies about street fighters, but you just tell me I’m wrong).
Also some phenomenal cinematography as well. We learn everything we need to know about James Coburn’s character, a glib fight promoter, with one shot of him counting a bankroll while the palooka he backed struggles to consciousness at his feet. And Coburn’s the good guy.
Apparently, the uniform for a bare-knuckle boxer in the 1930s was a cheap jacket over bare skin. No shirts, no sweaters. Just tweed and pecs, baby.
Great supporting role by Strother Martin (the field boss from Cool Hand Luke, among other roles) as a hopped-up doctor. He delivers his lines with a practiced ease that’s fun to listen to.
The only weakness: we never really have cause to doubt our hero. He’s never tempted to throw a fight, never provoked to anger, never makes any stupid decisions and he’s never at risk of losing. That puts us at something of a remove from him for the entire film.
The Town: An excellent crime drama, worthy of inclusion with Heat or The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
We can say it now: Ben Affleck’s a damn good director.
And he’s getting better as an actor, but putting him against Jeremy Renner just makes Affleck look silly. Consider the first scene where Affleck and Renner walk into the Florist’s, early in the movie. Affleck walks in there like an actor playing a townie. Renner walks in there like some Blue Line punk whose nicest outfit is an Ed Hardy ensemble and whose idea of being subtle is rolling his sleeves down to cover his tats. I see guys like that – more likely, guys trying to be like that – in every bar in Somerville.
IMDb Trivia for The Town: Director/star Ben Affleck was most concerned that the actors not have phony sounding Boston accents. When Blake Lively read for the part of Krista, she sounded so authentic that he asked her what part of Boston she grew up in. She was born and raised in California.
IMDb Trivia for Gone Baby Gone: Amy Ryan was so convincing with her Boston accent in her audition, that director Ben Affleck asked her what part of Boston she was from.
That seems to be the story of Affleck’s directorial career: disbelief that people can pull off a Boston accent. It’s not feckin’ hard, dude. Don’t be such a feckin’ queah-baggah about it.
Speaking of Blake Lively: excellent as a made-up townie. I had to struggle to remember that I found her attractive in other things. And Rebecca Hall does a very good job as well. She and Affleck have an easy, unforced chemistry.
All that said, it felt like the movie had one piece too many. It’s not just about this crew – it’s about Affleck’s relationship with Hall, and about his dad in prison, and about FBI agent Jon Hamm, and about local crime boss Pete Postlethwaite, and about Affleck’s kid with Lively, and about Renner doing a bid, and this, and that. Too many threads lay across the surface and not all of them bring the same weight. Then again, IMDb tells me Affleck originally filmed a 4-hour cut (whaddaya, David feckin’ Lean over heah?) so maybe there’s some stuff missing.
(Compare this to Heat, where Michael Mann makes us care about Natalie Portman and Dennis Haysbert despite giving them about 10 minutes of screen time apiece. So Affleck’s not perfect yet. But he’s young, and very good for so young)
Says my manager: no way you could have a car chase in the North End like that. Twenty seconds in and you rear end a fish truck double-parked outside a restaurant. A guy in an oversized leather jacket gets out of his Cadillac to say a few words.