The Town (2010)
Everything that you’ve heard before now is true so if you get a sense of de ja vu while reading this review I can only apologise. The Town does have moments reminiscent of Heat and it does confirm Ben Affleck as someone who may well have a very bright future in the director’s seat (I have yet to see Gone Baby Gone, his directorial debut that also received plenty of good reviews).
The movie starts off with this statement – “One blue-collar Boston neighborhood has produced more bank robbers and armored car thieves than anywhere in the world”. That neighbourhood is Charlestown. The Town. I have no idea how true this statement is, Charlestown was certainly a leader in this particular type of crime in the early 90s and that’s good enough for me to be able to buy into the depiction of this part of Boston shown onscreen.
Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner play, respectively, Doug and James, two friends who also happen to work together in numerous daring raids that see banks relieved of excessive amounts of cash. During one robbery, a hostage (Claire, played by Rebecca Hall) is taken and eventually dropped off elsewhere, unharmed. Hostage-taking is a new move and makes the group ill at ease so it’s decided that Claire needs checked up on and warned not to talk to the police. Doug ends up, instead, dating Claire and this makes things quite complicated. As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Doug is also being hassled by his ex (Krista, played by Blake Lively), the Feds are closing in (led by Jon Hamm’s Special Agent Adam Frawley) and pressure is being put on them by a greedy local gangster, played by the late Pete Postlethwaite.
Adapting the Chuck Hogan novel, “Prince Of Thieves”, into something cinematic and powerful has been made to look very easy by Affleck (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Craig and Aaron Aaron Stockard before assuming his directorial role). All of the characters are given enough time to make an impression (though the ladies suffer slightly – Rebecca Hall’s character is a little bit drab and Blake Lively really only gets to come into her own in the last half hour or so) and the movie is certainly more of a character study than a slam-bang action flick but when the action moments do occur they’re superbly executed and there is never a moment when you suspect that Affleck is unsure of his capabilities, both onscreen and behind the camera.
The acting from everyone involved is superb and I’d also like to mention the small, great appearance by Chris Cooper as Stephen MacRay, Doug’s father who is stuck in jail for his own criminal past. Jon Hamm gets most of the good lines, it must be said, but the best performance comes from Jeremy Renner as a volatile man who will do anything to avoid prison.
The Town does have its problems – the underwritten female roles, the lack of believability in places – but there’s not enough here to drag it down too much. It’s definitely an above-average crime thriller and simply a great movie that takes it’s time to tell a story intent on rewarding the viewers who give it their attention.
DIRECTOR: BEN AFFLECK
STARS: BEN AFFLECK, JEREMY RENNER, JON HAMM, REBECCA HALL, BLAKE LIVELY
RUNTIME: 125 MINS APPROX/150 MINS APPROX (EXTENDED CUT, RECOMMENDED)