The Town

In The Town Ben Affleck, directing himself, plays Doug MacRay, a career criminal who as part of a veteran crew, robs banks in Boston. They all live just across the
Bridge in Charlestown,which apparently has the largest population of bank robbers
in the country. I couldn’t find any statistics in my exhaustive five minute google search, but apparently Charlestown does have this reputation.

Like any good movie criminal, Doug is beginning to have second thoughts about the choices he’s made in his life. But, of course, he can’t just walk away; he knows too much and owes too many debts to the close knit underworld that controls the mean streets of his home town. The situation comes to a head when a heist goes wrong and they have to take the manager, Claire Keesey, played by Rebecca Hall, hostage. They let her go eventually but when they find out that she lives in their neighborhood, Doug has to approach her and see if she if she saw anything that might incriminate them. Of course he falls for her and decides to pursue the relationship. Desperately, he searches for a way to get both of them out of this situation.

The film follows several plot lines, including one about the FBI special agent, Adam Frawley, played by Jon Hamm, who is trying to track Doug’s crew down. But the main story is with the two lovers. And like in Gone, Baby, Gone Affleck’s other directorial effort, Boston and it’s environs is a major character in the story. Affleck really has a good feel for his hometown, especially the seedier parts and the shots of row houses with peeling paint and corner grocery stores are glorious.

The acting is good too. Ben Affleck doesn’t have much of a range but he can convincingly turn himself into a working class hero despite his matinee idol looks. Jeremy Renner, Oscar winner from The Hurt Locker, turns in another great performance as James Coughlin, second in command on the crew and deadly loose cannon. Renner finds the vulnerability in the role and makes you understand this homicidal/suicidal nut. Rebecca Hall captures the fear and uncertainty of a hostage victim and also portrays the moral dilemma of her character when she discovers Doug’s secret.

The problem, as it so often is, is in the script. For a thriller, this is a slow film, filled with turgid moments and horribly awkward speeches that are meant to be characterization. Plus, The Town just isn’t that original. Like The American a few weeks ago, The Town is a standard issue melodrama dressed up in indie clothes. There’s some cleverness in the way the jobs are planned and carried out, but overall this film lacks the smart, labyrinthian plot of Gone, Baby, Gone, or that other great Boston set crime drama, Mystic River. Not coincidentally both of those movies were based on Dennis Lehane novels.

Maybe our boy Ben should call up Lehane and ask him if he’s working on anything.

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