The Town Review


The strongest praise I can muster for Ben Affleck’s new film The Town is to say that it’s good. It features good acting. The direction and writing are good, and it has some good action sequences. I can’t really get too excited about it though. I felt like it had all been done before—often better. It just wasn’t a film that I connected to, and while some are heaping praise of Affleck’s progress as a director, I think he has taken a step back from his debut, Gone Baby Gone. That film was a masterpiece. This one is, like I said, merely good.

Charlestown, Massachusetts is THE place for bank robberies in America, and Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is one of the best in town. He and his crew—Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy Magloan (Slaine), and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke)—have knocked off six armored cars and two banks, one of which is managed by Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), who Jim kidnaps after they empty the bank’s vaults. Doug begins to keep tabs on Claire so he can be sure she won’t ID him or his friends to a pesky FBI agent, Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm).

When Doug and Claire actually meet, sparks fly, and the two start seeing each other. The abduction is hanging over her head, but she doesn’t know this great new man in her life was involved. As their relationship heats up, Doug finds himself in hot water with Jim (who finds out he is seeing Claire instead of his sister, played by Blake Lively) and Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite), the town’s crime lord who doesn’t like the idea that his best thief wants to quit over a woman. And things get even worse as Frawley narrows in on these men, making their jobs more and more difficult.

The film’s strongest asset is its director/star/co-writer—Ben Affleck. His direction is assured. One of Gone Baby Gone’s best features was its authentic Boston flavor, and Affleck makes sure to do the same thing with The Town. The film’s climax happens at Fenway Park…what’s more Boston than that?

Acting-wise, Affleck is as good as he has been in years. He’s very convincing as a man torn between his friends and his new woman. It’s not a very original character arc (more on that in a bit), but the actor is definitely up to the task. The best performances in the film, however, come from Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall. Coming off an Oscar nomination for The Hurt Locker, Renner plays a fiery individual who always seems to take things too far. He’s an expert intimidator and loyal as hell, but his anger often makes him act out in impulsive—and ultimately destructive—ways. It’s a prime role for an actor who has proven himself and will likely continue to get better in coming years. Then there’s Hall, who was the best thing about Please Give earlier this year. She’s the films heart. We recognize that the romance between Claire and Doug is impossible, and we pity her because she’s the only one who doesn’t know.

The film’s weakness is that it’s wholly unoriginal. It doesn’t touch on anything that we haven’t seen before in better and more interesting heist films. The lack of originality in the story would be fine if there was something to set this film apart, but nothing—not one scene—is truly memorable. I liked it, and the film doesn’t make many missteps, but I can’t 100% get behind a film that doesn’t wow me even once.

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