The Town Directed by: Ben Affleck Cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm Running Time: 2 hrs 5 mins Rating: R Release Date: September 17, 2010
PLOT: While planning a way out of “the bank robbery capital of America,” a professional robber (Affleck) falls for the woman (Hall) he temporarily took hostage during a previous job, all while trying to elude a determined FBI agent (Hamm).
WHO'S IT FOR? The audience potential for this movie is wider than the Big Dig. It’s a mature cops and robbers story that gives adults (of all different ages) some Hollywood fun without being too graphic or even remotely mindless. While Bostonians may get a special kick out of seeing particular locales transformed into bang-bang action sets, the entertainment potential is wide open for anyone ... as long as they don't mind Boston accents. Ma, go see it.
EXPECTATIONS: Actor and co-writer/director Ben Affleck is back on the big screen to prove that his debut, the Oscar-nominated Gone Baby Gone, was no fluke. Now with his own camera presence working with his directorial style, it seemed like he was aiming to strike back at his critics with vengeance.
Ben Affleck as Doug MacRay: In his better roles before, Affleck has been successfully funny and sentimental. Here, he reminds us that he can indeed still sell both of those character traits, while also adding on a rough layer of intimidation. Affleck gives himself a couple of monologues to improve his all around credibility, and it works. While it’s easy to imagine his attempt at toughness backfiring, that doesn’t happen here. The guy from Armageddon, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Pearl Harbor, The Sum of All Fears and Surviving Christmas earns our forgiveness by proving even with just one role that he really can act. Score: 7
Jeremy Renner as Jem: The Oscar-nominated actor ticked like a cool time bomb in The Hurt Locker, and now he chews up the scenery of The Town like a mad dog, one that can hardly be kept on leash. Jem’s lack of attachment to anything, along with his short temper, make him a hard-hitting and effective character. Renner brings this type of ruffian to life with great authenticity and a creepy presence – of the non-Bostonian cast, he’s got the best accent in the entire group. Renner fits in perfectly as a destructive Charlestown monster just like Viggo Mortensen did the Russian mafia in Eastern Promises. It’s so good that it’s kind of scary. Score: 8
Rebecca Hall as Claire Keesey: Her character is vulnerable, but her weakness is entirely human. A great contrast to ruffians like Doug and Jem, she reminds us that no matter how tough our environment may make us, the sight of actual guns and violence can deliver a scarring fear. The story doesn’t slack by letting her be a simple romantic interest at the center of the film, as she is given a compelling backstory that explains delicately how she’d ever end up with someone like Doug. Score: 7
Jon Hamm as FBI S.A Adam Frawley: The first couple of scenes that introduce us to this justice-hungry head-honcho slightly indicate that this FBI guy might be a bit stock. Proving us wrong soon enough, Hamm easily grows into the part, especially after he’s given enough lines and moments to propose his character’s essence – that he’s "not screwin' around," at all. Matching the intensity of all the crooks he takes down with his intelligence and determination, he becomes a great opponent in this brutal game of cat and mouse. Score: 7
TALKING: The script is loaded with quick dialogue that add “smahhts” to the characters and consequently make the movie even more likable. Affleck and Hamm especially are given a quick wit, and they each have their own assortment of funny lines. In general, the script is self aware, especially when noticing how it controls even ironic humor. For example, when Claire says to bank robber Doug in an amusing conversation, “It’s not your fault,” the film supports that joke beyond just a cute wink at the audience. The same can be said for numerous other sequences (in fact, a surprising amount) that are given legitimately funny comic relief. Score: 8
SIGHTS: The action is well shot, with each bank robbery maintaining a cohesive level of visual intensity, as enhanced by tricky (yet classic) Boston landmarks. The nightmarish narrow roads of the Italian North End are given a thrilling treatment with a tricky multi-car chase, and a special location in the third act is presented in a Hollywood fashion that it far too long has been without. Wonderfully, this movie takes 100% full advantage of Boston's various beautiful landscapes, which gives The Town a sense of pride and unique visual flair. None of that "Some Scenes Filmed in Toronto" B.S. Score: 9
SOUNDS: The chaos of The Town is nicely grounded by an effective motif of simple melody that chimes in when needed, without any melodramatic touch. The music that plays during the robbery sounds a tad industrial, and gives the film’s sounds an ethereal intensity. But the most important aspect of sound coming from The Town has to do with accents, something that this movie presents more authentically than almost any other films that take place in Boston. For example, Scorsese’s The Departed “fahhked” up the accents, even with native Matt Damon in the lead. Writer/director Affleck eats and breathes the dialect, and continues to prove it. So when Jon Hamm says, “Knock over a Star Market for a roll of quarters,” those words come out of his mouth like a man with yee-ahs of Massachusetts blood already pumping through him. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: While slightly gimmicky in its premise, the final robbery job offers the film's best wallops of tension and balls-to-the-wall action.
ENDING: The most brutal robbery to happen to Boston’s “religious icons” since 1986.
QUESTIONS: Has anybody read the book? Is it any good? Also, where in the hell did Ben Affleck learn to direct movies?
REWATCHABILITY: This action movie certainly has more re-play value than Gone Baby Gone, and it leaves even a warmer feeling in my Massachusetts born-and-raised heart. A second viewing while this movie is in theaters sounds like nothing but bliss.
If I’ve learned anything from The Town, it’s that bank robberies require careful calculation. The same can be said about filmmaking. Continuing the metaphor, Ben Affleck is proving to be a surprising wiz kid – like some young janitor who actually can handle even the most complicated of math problems.
The Town is a rock-solid Hollywood fare. The acting is great across the board, there isn’t one dinky action sequence, the dialogue is sharp, and parts of it are even borderline hilarious. Affleck injects a sense of tension in the movie at the very beginning that doesn’t leave its audience until the credits. For the whole movie, no one’s fate seems secure, and nothing feels like it’s on any course of clichés.
Audiences are about to be taken by surprise when this movie bursts into theaters and instills in them an incredibly rounded piece of Hollywood entertainment. Whatever high amount of loot The Town gets, it wholly deserves.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10