A quintet of actors carve out a beautiful, ill-fated geometry in John Wells's layoff drama, which might play like a retort to Up in the Air if it didn't have shortcomings of its own. Ben Affleck's 37-year-old former sales star takes out his unemployment shame on the golf range or by raging at random secretaries. Higher up on the food chain---but also given pink slips within the first half hour---are private-jet-cruising Tommy Lee Jones and a rivetingly sour Chris Cooper, who dyes his hair dark for desperate power lunches. The impassive Craig T. Nelson sits above it all, somehow mustering humanity as a hatchet-happy CEO, while salt-of-the-earth contractor Kevin Costner (commanding in a supporting role) represents a return to virtues of sweat and labor.
But for all of Wells's tough-minded corporate-speak (he did solid writing on ER and The West Wing), the film falls into some regrettable shorthand: Toting cups of Dunkin' Donuts to the construction site becomes overly symbolic of honest taste; a teen son's Xbox is a casualty of cost-cutting; and here comes the Big Interview. An undercurrent of Boston wharf work (where their dismantling company got its start) would have made for stronger plot developments. Still, this is closer to James Gray's mighty The Yards than Indiewood usually gets.
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