TIFF ’10: Ben Affleck takes audiences back to “The Town”

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: We continue to preview anticipated titles screening at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in our “Road to Toronto” feature.

The fest kicks off on Sept. 9, and HollywoodNews.com will be on the ground bringing you reviews, interviews, and a clearer glimpse at the ever-shifting Oscar race.

To read our previous preview columns, punch “TIFF” into our search window. Today, Ben Affleck follows up his acclaimed “Gone Baby Gone” – which was far better than I expected and only gets better on repeat viewing – with another crime thriller set in the roughest patches of his beloved Boston.

The Town

The Plot: Career criminal Doug MacRay (Affleck), the leader of a bank-robbing crew, falls for Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a bank manager they must take hostage during one of their jobs.

The Director: Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”)

The Cast: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively

The Scoop: Though an Oscar winner for penning “Good Will Hunting,” Affleck had become a bit of a Hollywood punchline thanks to a handful of questionable career choices. No one was laughing, however, when his “Gone” stormed multiplexes and scored near-universal critical praise. All of a sudden, Affleck became a director worth paying attention to, making his follow-up film – “The Town” – eagerly anticipated. Was “Gone” a one-trick pony aided by a powerful Dennis Lehane story? Or can Affleck continue to tell gritty crime stories anchored by exceptional ensembles? I can’t wait to find out.

Awards Potential: Very hard to say until we see it, which will be soon. “Gone” scored very well with critics groups in year-end voting, though it was “Gone” standout Amy Ryan who received the bulk of the attention (as well as a Best Supporting Actress nomination) for her mesmerizing turn as awful single mother, Helene. Renner’s certainly capable of stealing similar thunder from his “Town” co-stars, while any improvement Affleck shows behind the camera from “Baby” to now would only impress us even more.

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