Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life is Hot in Robberytown

These bastards, they want me to know what Catfish is about; the trailer came up as I waited for the feature to start and I've no idea what the film is about except that I shouldn't have any idea of what the film is about. I decided right then and there that I didn't want to know. Usually, I'll sit through trailers but if it's something I don't want to have spoiled, the best I can do is turn away and tune out the dialogue. A friend of mine takes more extreme measures; he covers his ears or if there's someone with him to save his seat, he'll get up and leave for a few minutes. Anyway, I decided to pull one of his moves; I had popcorn and soda saving my seat (I hoped) and got up and left. 2-and-a-half minutes later, I returned to see the green band for another trailer up on the screen, so I started walking up the aisle.

It was the Catfish trailer. Again.

Fuck, I said to myself, and I walked back out of the theater for another 2 and-a-half minutes. When I returned, I had a good news/bad news scenario to greet me. Good news? It wasn't the Catfish trailer for a third time. Bad news? It was a trailer for something with that piece-of-shit Katherine Heigl and that guy from the Transformers movies about two mismatched people who don't like each other but under circumstances are now under the care of a recently orphaned baby, I guess because the baby's now-dead parents watched way too many shitty rom-coms. Christ. Sweet Christ. How many future break-ups and eventual divorces are gonna sit through that goddamn thing? Thankfully, that ended and the movie I used my "Free Night at the Movies" (admission, soda and popcorn!) AMC ticket on, The Town began.

Ben Affleck not only co-wrote and directed, but also decided to star his fine ass in this picture, playing a recovering alcoholic/druggie but unrecovered criminal hardass, doing jobs with his 3 buddies. One of them is played by The Hurt Locker and Mr. Locker is the wild card of the bunch, in this group of professionals he's the one most likely to go "Let's kill these bitches" (to reference a bit from the greatest comedian in the world, one Sir Danish Cook, O.B.E.). At the start of the movie, Affleck and company just pulled a bank job and aside from a couple unexpected violent improvs from Mr. Locker, everything went well -- until they find out after the job that the bank assistant manager they had taken hostage during their getaway (and dropped off at a beach), well, she lives near these dudes. Affleck decides to do a little spywork by paying her a little visit as just some random dude, just to make sure that she's busy trying to move on with her life, rather than moving on to the nearest FBI office.

People love that show Mad Men, and maybe I'd love it as well but I'll never know because I won't watch the motherfucker. Too many movies out there and I'm already watching 2 programs (by which my count, is 2 too many). But anyway, the guy from that show, Jon Hamm is here playing an FBI agent and what I liked about his character was that he wasn't particularly likable. His job doesn't require him to be, in fact, it probably helps big time that he's a colossal prick because all his job requires him to do is put away the bad guy. Period. And he loves putting away the bad guy because he sure as fuck doesn't like the bad guy. There is no "my heart bleeds for him" Manhunter duality in this mofo, he will talk crazy shit to your face about how he's gonna fuck your future if he thinks you're the bad guy, and I swear he gets as much enjoyment trying to fuck people who are merely associated with the bad guy. 

Because Affleck is the main character, Jon Hamm is the antagonist here. Same people that are cheering Affleck to get away with it, would be cheering Hamm on if the film was re-edited so that *he* was the star. It's weird how that works with us audiences; tell us who the star is, devote your screen time to him or her and unless he or she is a complete animal, that's the side we're gonna be on. I mean, I want Affleck to get away with it but it's not like he's a criminal with a soft side in this movie. It seems that way in the beginning, when he doesn't call out the assistant bank manager on some shit she pulls during the robbery, but that's more because she's a pretty girl. I'm sure if that was a dude, he'd have tuned him up a bit.

It's like this interview I read with Jada Pinkett before she got Big Willie into her life; she talked about how when she was 18 or 19, she got robbed at gunpoint. It was some serious shit, harsh and violent and it got to the point that she pissed herself, she was so scared, she admitted this in print. Me, I'd do some revisionism on that story. Well, some time later, this dude got caught and it turns out he had a history of killing all the people he jacked. This got to Ms. Pinkett-Not-Smith-Yet, so she visited him in jail and asked him something to the effect of "Why did you let me live, when you killed so many others" and his response was that he thought she was cute. That was it; it wasn't a question of morality or this sudden change-of-heart about how he was doing these things, it was simply that if she was ugly or a guy, she'd be dead.

I was reminded of that story with Affleck's character here, and why he tries to protect the Chick from That One Woody Allen Movie I Haven't Seen. Because when it comes down to it, he doesn't have a heart of gold, he's a fuckin' gangster and will throw down into some gangster shit if need be. This guy is a Professional in the same way that Mr. White and Mr. Pink were professionals -- a choice between doing 10 years and taking out some stupid motherfucker, ain't no choice at all. There's a job in the film he doesn't want to take, and it's kinda left out there whether it's because of his official reason (it would involve dealing with hardcore gung-ho do-or-die young armed guards, rather than older dudes who just want to make it to retirement) or because he really wants out. Enough is put out there for you to take it either way. But just because he doesn't have a heart of gold, doesn't mean he doesn't have a heart at all, it's just that it only extends to the those he's close to, or wants to be close to, as in the case of Ms. Assistant Manager.

There are questionable actions Affleck's character pulls in this flick but since we're focusing on his life and his problems, and since all we see of Jon Hamm is that he's an asshole who works for a good cause, then that pretty much decides who you want to take the ride with, know what I mean? No, you don't -- I'm not that articulate. Hmm. Let me put it this way -- I guess it shows to go you how much of a master Michael The Fuckin' Mann is because he managed to put a dude like me in a real audience's quandary when I watched Heat. By the climax of the film, I was torn because I wanted both DeNiro and Pacino's character to succeed even though I knew that wasn't going to be possible, so I was left with this unsettling feeling wondering who was going to win/lose. But with The Town, I was totally on Team Affleck by default. And just to make sure you don't completely hate on Jon Hamm (he is trying to bust these guilty-as-sin robbers for you know, breaking the law, it's not like he's some corrupt murderer), the film gives us this scary Irish gangster dude who runs shit from a flower shop with this big white-haired dude who reminded me of King Cotton (aka Roscoe of Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles from Tapeheads) with shorter hair.

For a while, I thought they were gonna set up The Hurt Locker's character as some piece of shit who would be better off dead rather than fucking up my boy Affleck's game, but sometimes I'd listen to what this dude was saying and think, Shit he has a point, you know? Mr. Locker has a problem knowing when to say when as far as pulling the Ownage card goes, but as the movie goes on you kinda get the feeling this dude is even more of a stand-up guy than Affleck is, when the chips are down. He's a loyal motherfucker, I'll put it that way, especially when you start thinking more about how Affleck's treated/treating the other people in his life. And then there's this other scene where Affleck calls The Hurt Locker to help him do something that didn't really need to be done, and it involves doing some damage and the whole time I'm thinking, Wait a minute, wasn't Affleck getting all up in Hurt Locker's grill about hurting people 10 minutes ago? What the fuck, I guess as long as it serves *your* purpose, it's OK, right?

What you have here is a solid entry into the book of crime movies under the Heat chapter; the movie is far more interested in the characters but doesn't skimp out when it comes time to do some crime. In addition to bringing the goods in the acting department (the supporting cast is great, Affleck does fine with his slightly Parker-esque character), it brings the goods in the action department. There's a pretty tricky car chase through some narrow streets and there's also one of those automatic weapon shootouts I like so much, the ones with crazy thump and bass with every burst of rapid fire coming from multi-magazine clips. I can watch that kind of shit for hours. The movie gets better as it goes along, in thirds; it was a decent flick for the first third, a good flick during the second third, and a very good flick by the last third. Then it kills some of that goodwill with the ending, but I'm not gonna hate on Affleck for it because I think he was put in a really tough damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation as far as how to finish this fucker. His first film, Gone Baby Gone, had a better ending but despite that and a great Ed Harris performance, I think I'll give the edge to this one.

Oh yeah, forgot about this. The movie starts with some quotes and a title card telling you that the setting of the film, Charlestown, might as well be called Robberytown on account of all the bank robberies that occur there, then halfway through the end credits there's a disclaimer that tells you that it's still a great place because there's lots of hard-working law-abiding citizens who live a life of decency. It's great that they waited to put that bit up until when they were certain most of the audience would be halfway to the parking lot by then. It's kinda like the very end of the end credits of De Palma's Scarface, when at the last possible moment they put up a disclaimer that basically says "By the way, not ALL Cuban immigrants are drug-dealing criminals, FYI. Wink wink" or the very last 10 seconds of the 10 minute end credit scroll for Blood In, Blood Out: Bound by Honor that tells you "Oh, yeah. Those shankings and riots and rapes at San Quentin? Uh, they don't happen anymore" and might as well end with snickering and maybe a "Not!".

That's called responsibility, people. One day I'm gonna make a movie called All The Asian People In My City Know Martial Arts And Want To Kill You and it's going to be about sweet, innocent Amy Adams making a wrong turn on her way to a birthday party and having to escape from a city where all the Asian people know martial arts and are kung-fu'ing the fuck out of all the non-Asians for about 90 minutes, then they all go after her because she's, like, super White. It's going to have a 20-minute long end credit reel, and at the very end for about 0.5 seconds before the reel ends and the lights go up, I'll cover my ass with this:

Disclaimer: All Asian people do not know martial arts and will not look to kill you. The Asian community is filled with hard-working, non-violent, peaceful people who have love and respect for all others. Everything you just watched was a lie and I apologize. Thanks for watching.