What Roger Ebert Had to Say About Us

A survey of Ebert’s reviews of movies set in and around Boston.

On Thursday, beloved film critic Roger Ebert died after a long battle with cancer. To honor him, Chris Chase of USA Today Sports wrote a post highlighting some of Ebert’s best sports movie reviews. The idea was so great that we decided to do our own version. Here are snippets of some of Ebert’s best reviews of movies set in and around Boston:

Four Stars

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, 1973: “Paul Monash’s screenplay stays close to the real-life Massachusetts texture of the novel, and the dialogue sounds right. The story isn’t developed in the usual movie way, with lots of importance being given to intricacies of plot; instead, Eddie’s dilemma occurs to him as it occurs to us, and we watch him struggle with it.”

Jaws, 1975: “There are no doubt supposed to be all sorts of levels of meanings in such an archetypal story, but Spielberg wisely decides not to underline any of them. This is an action film content to stay entirely within the perimeters of its story, and none of the characters has to wade through speeches expounding on the significance of it all. Spielberg is very good, though, at presenting those characters in a way that makes them individuals.”

The Departed, 2006: “I have often thought that many of Scorsese’s critics and admirers do not realize how deeply the Catholic Church of pre-Vatican II could burrow into the subconscious, or in how many ways Scorsese is a Catholic director. This movie is like an examination of conscience, when you stay up all night trying to figure out a way to tell the priest: I know I done wrong, but, oh, Father, what else was I gonna do?”

Three Stars

Good Will Hunting, 1997: “The outcome of the movie is fairly predictable; so is the whole story, really. It’s the individual moments, not the payoff, that make it so effective. ‘Good Will Hunting’ has been rather inexplicably compared to ‘Rainman,’ although ‘Rainman’ was about an autistic character who cannot and does not change, and ‘Good Will Hunting’ is about a genius who can change, and grow, if he chooses to.”

The Town, 2010: “There are two fairly extended scenes in the film, for example, during which bank robbers with machineguns exchange fire with a large number of cops. My opinion is that when automatic weapons are used by experienced shooters at less than a block’s distance, a lot of people are going to get killed or wounded. It becomes clear in ‘The Town’ that nobody will get shot until and/or unless the screenplay requires it, and that causes an audience letdown. We feel the story is no longer really happening, and we’re being asked to settle yet once again for a standard chase-and-gunfight climax.”

Ted, 2012: “I must end on a note of warning. ‘Ted’ is not merely an R-rated movie, but a very R-rated movie — ‘for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use,’ according to the MPAA, and what they mean by ‘some’ is hard to figure, because it could hardly contain more. No matter how much kids want to see the teddy bear movie in the ads on TV, steer them to ‘Brave.’ Trust me on this.”

Two Stars

Blown Away, 1994: “‘Blown Away’ is the kind of movie that people should be sentenced to see if they complain that ‘Speed’ is implausible. Its central enigma is supposed to be: How can bomb squad member Jeff Bridges stop mad bomber Tommy Lee Jones before he blows up everyone Bridges loves, and half of Boston along with them? In actual fact, the puzzle is: How does Jones have enough time to rig such intricate and labyrinthine schemes?”

Edge of Darkness, 2010: “I explain this not merely to avoid discussing the off-the-shelf thriller plot, but to illustrate that ‘Edge of Darkness,’ like so many recent thrillers, has no ambition to be taken seriously. If the corporation were more realistic, the movie would be, too. And then the fate of the world wouldn’t depend yet once again on One Cop . . . With Nothing to Lose . . . On a Personal Mission.”

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