The Town

The Town

Film review by: Witney Seibold

While “The Town” does not have the psychological heft of Ben Affleck‘s last directorial effort, “Gone, Baby, Gone,” nor is it marked by that film’s performing aplomb, “The Town” is still possessed of that local Bostonian authenticity that Affleck has now proven he is so good at directing, and it’s still a powerful crime drama. I haven’t been to Boston since I was a child, but I can tell that Affleck has spent a good deal of time making sure that “The Town” has its local geography just right; it seems as if every neighborhood is exactly the right distance from the next one, and that, in car chases, when a car swerves around several corners, that they are all within the correct distance from one another. Most films and TV shows shot in L.A. feature cars that seem to round the same corner eight times, and then magically appear 20 miles hence for the next shot. Affleck is a talented enough director that he can handle geography.

 

What’s more, he’s actually very astute at handling real characters; in the case of “The Town,” the soulful and ambivalent sides of hard-edged bank thieves living in Charlestown, MA, a suburb of Boston notorious for its high bank robbery rate. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, the leader of a gang of bank robbers, who have heisted nearly a dozen banks in their career. The know how to dress, how to efficiently take down security systems, and how to deal with hostages and nervous bank tellers. I love when, in the movies, we see a team of people who work well together at something, even if it is efficient crime.

 

Doug must investigate the manager of of the bank he just heisted to find out how much she knows. That she is played by the rather pretty Rebecca Hall is a sure sign that he’s going to develop feelings for her. Affleck has been good in casting local extras in his films, and hiring actors who kind of dress down for their roles, so it’s a bit jarring to see someone as glamorous as Rebecca Hall on the screen. Doug’s feelings for this manager angers his would-be girlfriend Krista (Blake Lively), and his trigger-happy co-worker Jem (Jeremy Renner), Krista’s brother.

While we spend most of the film with Doug, and his indecisive angst, Jem is actually the heart of this story. He is a man who lives like a hammer, takes what he wants, and has no qualms about doing the hard stuff. On paper, that sounds like a typical crime drama character, but Renner is a talented enough actor that he infuses the character with a bracing authenticity. He’s certainly more believable than the film’s would-be boogeyman Fergie, played by a craggy Pete Postlethwaite.

 

There are, of course, Feds on Doug’s tail, represented by John Hamm, who has a put-upon working man’s fatigue that plays well into this world of unmannered criminals. One of the film’s best scenes is one in which Hamm enters a bar to interrogate Krista, and the subtle interplay of each character snaps like a Lumet film.

Affleck seems to be making a grand comment on a life of crime with “The Town,” but the message is in turn unclear and unsatisfying. What’s far more interesting is the film’s tension, the film’s plot structure, the action scenes, and the criminals doing what they do best. The film’s characters are torn and palpable and real, and when they do things for love, it’s not out of a weepy sentimentality, but a harsh sense of reality. And, of course, the film’s geographical verisimilitude goes a long way to making “The Town” a hugely entertaining and rather good movie.

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Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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