November 26, 2010

24.11: THE TOWN

Nuns on the Run II: Requiem
Ben Affleck’s The Town is a solid film that is occasionally very, very good. There are a few bumps along the way, and it’s not as outstanding as his debut directorial effort Gone Baby Gone, but overall it makes for fine entertainment and marks Affleck as a talented filmmaker to watch.

The Town finds Affleck back in his old stomping grounds of Boston again. Specifically, Charlestown: the armed robbery capital of America. Affleck is Doug MacRay, the lead of a very professional stick-up crew: they’re assigned targets (armoured cars and banks), scope them out and learn their patterns. Only once they have a solid plan in place do they launch into action. They cover all the angles: full masks and body cover, misleading DNA, no fingerprints and they torch their getaway cars. They are, as Jon Hamm’s FBI Special Agent Frawley notes, “the not fucking around guys.” During the opening bank heist they kidnap Rebecca Hall’s Bank Manager Claire, just in case, before releasing. In the following days Affleck begins to keeps an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t know too much. They end up dating and falling in love.

So, the story has an obviously interesting hook and plays it out more as a romance than a tense thriller. What this really is, is a collection of some of the finest actors working giving solidly great performances. Affleck (Armageddon) shows he’s still got charisma and charm as the tough but sweet Doug MacRay. His right-hand man, and the closest thing he has to family, is the violent Jim Coughlin played by SWAT’s Jeremy Renner with an easy intensity. It’s the kind of role I think Renner could do with his eyes closed at this point. Rebecca Hall is an actress I’ve loved since her wonderful performance in Vicky Christina Barcelona. The role of Claire is not entirely thankless, with some big emotional scenes, even if she is a little too perfect (she’s successful, funny, smart, beautiful and hey! Helps out needy neighbourhood kids and has an allotment garden!). On the other end of the spectrum is Blake Lively (from The O.C. or Gossip Girl or something, right?) who is surprisingly amazing as Renner’s single mother sister (and Affleck’s occasional casual partner), the drugged out and drunk Krista Coughlin. Pete Poselthwaite (always nice to see) is casually menacing as Fergie “The Florist”, the man who sets up the robberies and becomes a threat to Doug and Claire. And Chris Cooper pops in for a scene! One scene!

As Affleck has decided to focus on the romance, you care for how the relationship between Doug and Claire will turn out, but at the loss of possible tension. Hamm’s Agent Frawley is someone I would’ve like to have seen more of, if just to get the sense that the Feds are constantly closing in. However, Affleck stages truly phenomenal robbery scenes; the penultimate one having one of the best car chase scenes in recent history as the crew run from the cops down the narrow streets of Boston. When the film works, it works. I, for one, am looking forward to Affleck’s next directorial effort and only hope that he takes the chance to stretch his legs out of Beantown and crime.


  1. Blake Lively was so impressive in this. It was a great film, though I agree I am looking forward to future films that aren't Boston/crime.

  2. You're so right about Claire being "a little too perfect." I didn't notice that while I watched it. Perceptive critique!