All summer I’ve been holed up with a co-writer working on a script for a bank robbery movie. We’ve got a couple unique twists and just like everything I write I feel like if it doesn’t turn David Rolland (or at the very least Pablo Chiste) into a household name I’ll eat my computer (this is one of the reasons I am forced to eat a high fiber diet).
But the last time my co-writer and I met he was distracted. “You hear of this new movie The Town? It’s a bank robbery movie and it seems really similar to what we’re working on.”
I told him not to fret. If it was really good and successful then bank robbery movies would be Hollywood’s flavor of the week. And if it stinks then we still have a chance to lay our claim to this generation’s Bonnie and Clyde. When The Town did open up as number one in the box office my confidence quivered a bit. I didn’t want to spend all this time working on something that’s second best. Since the only other movie Ben Affleck directed was the really terrific Gone Baby Gone I was ready to have my ego cracked.
But Affleck did something really smart in Gone Baby Gone. He didn’t cast himself to star in it. The Town, unfortunately, isn’t just directed by Ben Affleck it also stars Ben Affleck. Because of this the director decided there should be are at least three shirtless scenes of Affleck doing pull-ups or laying atop a girl.
One of the great qualities of the gritty Gone Baby Gone was it featured great sexual chemistry between its two leads. In The Town watching Affleck and Rebecca Hall “bond” reminded me of too many bad dates I’ve been on. Only when I make out of nowhere wisecracks and she makes stupid inane comments like, “I hate sunny days. They remind me of when my brother died.” there’s no hot sex at the end of the date. Maybe if I did more pull-ups my results would have been different.
OK, so while the acting wasn’t great, what can we learn from the story of The Town that might be used to help make our bank robbery script stronger? The first lesson is the heist doesn’t have to be that creative or make that much sense. The robberies in The Town are outlandish and kind of ridiculous, but because Affleck is a good director of action you didn’t think about the implausibilities of their schemes. You were too worried over whether the protagonists would get caught to care if their plan was original or possible.
I’m mixed over whether the character’s motivations to rob a bank are important now. That’s been a major debate between my fellow writer and me. What would make a person rob a bank? To me its an act of real desperation that would only be done as a last resort. But Affleck had pretty weak motivation for the movie’s final heist, and that didn’t really hurt the movie.
No, what did hurt The Town and hopefully our script avoids is it lacked characters you wanted to spend time with. They were bores with guns. You root for George Clooney in Out of Sight and Bonnie and Clyde not because they’re bank robbers, but because they’re outcasts. The only thing that makes them special is illegal and dangerous, but it’s what makes them who they are. It wasn’t the money that was important to them, it was being true to themselves. And in the end society wouldn’t have it.
Bank robbery movies can be loaded with all kinds of symbolism and metaphors. For selfish reasons I’m glad The Town couldn’t be bothered to delve into them and preferred to concentrate on silly disguises and Ben Affleck’s deltoids.