Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, Rebecca Hall, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper
Review: Ben Affleck is quite the interesting character. As an actor he’s extremely hit or miss. He was wonderful in movies such as Good Will Hunting (which he also helped write), Dazed and Confused, Chasing Amy, and now The Town. But then there’s other movies like Gigli, Paycheck, Surviving Christmas, and Phantoms that take Ben down a tremendous peg. I mean Gigli Ben? Really? But recently, Ben has found another way to influence the film genre. And that’s directing. And so far he’s 2 for 2. Gone Baby Gone has an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is exactly what The Town stands at right now. Critics are seeming to take notice of the talent that’s been hidden so long by some extremely questionable career choices. Well, all I can say is I agree Ben, stay behind the camera and keep creating the realism that Gone Baby Gone and The Town both exemplify wonderfully. Thankfully, The Town is a fantastic second effort by a director many feared to just possess some freak beginners luck.
Set in the proclaimed robbery capital of America, The Town is a story about growing up on the streets of Charlestown and what many have to do just to survive. Doug MacRay (Affleck) is a local bank robber who works with his close friends James (Renner), Albert (Slaine) and Desmond (Owen Burke). Together, they form a successful team of criminals who do what they have to do to make a score every once in a while. It’s a part of life though where they all grew up; something passed on through generations even, so a lot of reputations are known. But the robberies aren’t always a breeze. During a bank heist, James deviates from the plan and takes the bank manager hostage (Hall) just in case they encounter any heat. They end up leaving her on a river bank, still blindfolded so she can’t point out any of the masked robbers. But, with her being a witness of sorts, the FBI gets involved and the team starts to get a little nervous. So Doug decides to do a little field work and see what the manager knows. And by that I mean he starts a relationship with her without any of his friends knowing because she is the only person that can point the friends to the cops. But Dougie is sick of his criminal life after getting to know Claire. At the same time, he knows he can’t leave his friends without problems. And not to mention his crazy ex-girlfriend Krista who still wants a life with him won’t exactly just let him to go. Doug is in deep, but can he manage to somehow escape the life he’s lived for so long? Can Doug find his redemption? Or will he be stuck forever in a world of criminals and low lives, risking it all every day.
Just like Gone Baby Gone, The Town has an extremely gritty feel to it. A lot of attention is paid to detail, shown right from the beginning in the opening bank robbing scene. The explosions were loud, the car chases were frantic, and I was actually impressed by the action scenes. They were tense and professional, not flashy and stylistic. You could really buy into the whole way of life gimmick because of how real the scenes felt. Affleck and his crew were in and out as fast as they could and didn’t chance what they didn’t have to. Making an action scene believable is the difference between keeping the drama of the film intact and losing the viewer to in fact think they are watching two different movies.
I also really enjoyed the pacing and balance of the film, like the way Affleck could separate the relationship drama with an entrancing robbery scene. When making a crime drama, some films come off too heavy-handed on either topic and they end up taking the whole movie over. Not in The Town. I was able to care enough about what was going on in the lives of the characters just as much as I wanted to see Affleck and his crew rob another bank. I never felt like I was being overwhelmed at any point.
But the best part by far was the casting. The casting and acting were what pushed The Town from being average to an achievement. These characters were so deep and so complex, there were parts of the film where I couldn’t tell if I loved them or hated them. I mean, we all know Ben can be the star of a film, so him pulling off an excellent character is nothing new. And for Renner, this is just another reason why he belongs with the biggest in Hollywood. Hamm was the best of them all though, taking a character whom should really be the good guy if you think about his job, and morphing him into a totally unlikable character whom you end up rooting against. He did a phenomenal job as FBI Agent Frawley and dare I say he deserves a nod at this point come Oscar season? Rebecca Hall surprised me as the love interest for Affleck, and plays a convincingly distraught woman who was a victim of a robbery. This again pins that feeling of realism. The rest of the cast fall into place perfectly, and without them The Town would be lacking the edge it so desperately needed.
What could have been a bore turns out to be a gritty crime drama an as a product one of the year’s must watch films. Why watch it? To convince yourself Affleck is one of the most competent directors in the industry today. For an amazing crime drama that will both excite and impress you. For brilliant acting by stars that either having something to prove or just continue proving. For something that seems real, like a story you yourself could see on the news. For an amazing viewing experience that will leave an impression for days to come. For a movie that may surprise people come Oscar time. For all those things, The Town is the answer. Such a vague title for such an enjoyable movie.
Final Rating: 8.5 GO SAWX out of 10