Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, is the sort of feature able to rescue a career in tailspin. It neatly turned around many perceptions of Affleck. Where once stood a bruised pretty boy who needed to fire his agent and suck it up in a couple of decent supporting roles, we suddenly had an honest to god artist, a guy who could put together a tight thriller with a hell of a moral kick, all while keeping an attentive eye on place and character and performance.
So what could he do for an encore?
As it turns out, more of the same. Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves has nothing to do with any great Brian Blessed movie; it is instead the story of a bank robber from Charlestown, MA who falls for the female manager of his most recent heist locale. It’s got the moral quandary, the Boston setting and one of the Affleck brothers starring, though this time it’ll be Ben himself. To avoid confusion, the film will be titled The Town. Adrian Lyne was once set to direct; in addition to taking over directorial duties, Affleck is rewriting the latest draft by Peter Craig and Chuck Hogan.
Charlestown is just as characteristically Boston a location as Dorchester, the setting for much of Gone Baby Gone. While Dorchester is south of the city proper, Charlestown is a bizarre microcosm tenuously connected to working class East Somerville and the Italian North End, but mostly cut off from everything by a conspiracy of rivers (the Charles and Mystic), interstates and trainyards. It has housed both the Irish Mob and rich stockbrokers. High priced condos butt up against an old Navy yard, warehouses and blue collar families. It’s an amazing setting that a few films (Blown Away, The Departed, and more prominently Ted Demme’s Monument Ave.) have used, but after what Affleck did in his debut, I can see the town coming to life on screen.
Even so, I’m slightly disappointed to see Affleck staying so close to his previous film. Not that it has to be a bad thing; no one rails against Dennis Lehane for setting novel after novel in Boston, and no one would ever sling shit at Scorsese for exploring New York one more time. But I always want to see people try new things instead of just staying with what works. This time, at least, Ben Affleck has the full benefit of the doubt, and if he wants to direct in Boston for the rest of his life, I can probably be convinced to watch it.