The Town Review

While admittedly formulaic and replete with rather cliché plot devices, Ben Affleck’s second directorial feature The Town is nonetheless much more than a Hollywood marketing vehicle. Starring Rebecca Hall and Affleck himself in the lead roles, this is a very decent crime drama with a good mix of intriguing story, sporadic character development and high-octane moments. Affleck borrows heavily from classics such as Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2000), and Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (2003) to construct a vibrant, kinetic film rich in action and atmosphere, and catch the viewer off guard with an ultimately tragic denouement.

The Town takes place in Charlestown, a quiet Boston suburb and the unlikely bank robbery capital of North America, where Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and his partners in crime are preparing for their next job. Organized and high-tech, these guys are no rookies from Oceans Twelve (2004) or The Italian Job (2003) – they destroy fingerprints with bleach, torch getaway vehicles, and leave no security camera tapes behind. However, when a problem occurs during a holdup, the masked assailants are forced to briefly take hostage bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) to use as leverage against the converging police. The unforeseen consequences of this rash move provide Affleck’s scenario with its narrative hook as Doug, tasked with keeping an eye on Claire after her release, inadvertently becomes attracted to his target.

Predictably enough, from this point on the story develops in a vein similar to Kim Jee-woon’s modern South Korean classic A Bittersweet Life (2005) with Doug looking desperately for ways to exit the criminal enterprise and eventually turning on its bosses. Affleck weaves an impressively varied and rich story of two well-portrayed individuals who meet as a result of a crime and strike up an unlikely romance doomed from its start by the circumstances of the same crime. Doug, who comes from a troubled family background, is faced with a tough choice between pursuing his love for Claire and remaining loyal to his partners. Likewise, the decision to collaborate with the official FBI investigation is a difficult one for Claire.

Comparisons between The Town and Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (2003) are perhaps inevitable due not only to the shared Boston setting, crime drama subject matter and tricky questions raised in both films about the nature of justice in America, but thanks also to the uncomfortably real, deeply pervasive air of fatalism that characterizes the two works. However, these parallels notwithstanding, Mystic River undoubtedly remains the more serious and originally climactic work, while The Town is significantly lighter on its audience, opting for action and simplicity rather than Dostoyevskian depth.

The Town offers an intellectually stimulating yet remarkably adrenaline-rich new take on familiar themes, a breath of fresh air in the midst of a mainstream film market polluted with pointless, effects-ridden action extravaganzas and classless, recycled remakes. Affleck’s direction remains stellar throughout the picture, as do the acting abilities of everyone involved. Robert Elswit’s excellent cinematography and a visceral sound score help lift the work even further above the pack.

The film is easy to recommend to most audiences, but especially to those lucky souls looking to savor a fast-paced crime thriller that does not require a complete suspension of its viewers’ mental faculties to be fully appreciated.

The Town (2010)
Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck (Doug MacRay), Rebecca Hall (Claire Keesey)
Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
Runtime: 125 mins | Country: US | Language: English

1 Response to “The Town Review”

  1. 1 mplo Sep 29th, 2011 at 10:31 am


    The bank I go to gets robbed by four masked men wielding semi-automatic or automatic weapons, everybody–customers and employees alike are forced to the floor, and I see another customer or employee, or even a close friend I went into the bank with pistol-whipped and permanently injured or killed by one of the men, I obey their orders, and just maybe 2 or 3 days later, while I’m either eating lunch in a local cafe or doing my laundry in a local laundromat, I’m approached by a very handsome, smooth-talking sweet guy as I’m crying and groveling over the memory of what has just happened, and he comforts me by stupid jokes, is sympathetic and asks me out on a date, and he turns out to be one of the guys who kicked over my bank at gunpoint and kidnapped me or somebody else? Ha!

    As if something like that would happen in real life! I’m talking about The Town and how it ;provides the message that it’s okay to steal from people, beat them and seriously injure or kill them in the process, and then put the romance moves on an attractive bank employee or someone else, worm one’s way into their heart and gain their trust so they won’t go to the Feds, and, in general exploit them as a bargaining chip so that you and your buddies don’t go back to prison?

    I mean the idea that this kind of thing would even happen in real life, or at all, is so implausible. The idea that a woman, especially one who’s just been victimized by an armed robbery and abduction can be so gullible as to accept a date and get romantically involved with some guy who, in fact, turns out to be someone who victimized her in the first place and then stick with him even after learning who he really is, and after the Feds have learned of her relationship between her and the robber, is not only stupid, but implausible.

    Also, it’s highly unlikely that a Townie (a lifelong Charlestown resident) would ever partner up with a Toonie (a yuppie who’s not from Charlestown), especially because the town-gown tensions here in Boston are far too acute for that.

    What I mentioned is also another big problem with The Town, imho; the idea of an armed bank robber who’s being hunted down by the Feds and the law, generally, having sympathy for a crying, grovelling woman that he’s been trailing for awhile anyway and met “by chance” in a laundromat or cafe is highly unlikely. I think the opposite would happen in real life: the guy would probably take furthur advantage of a weepy, scared woman who he and his buddies just robbed and kidnapped at gunpoint and either beat the crap out of her, gang-raped, thrown her into a dark alley, or possibly shot her and thrown her into the Mystic River.

    Sorry for rambling, folks, but that’s just my opinion. The same could be said if it were a woman with Asperger’s, ADD, a seizure disorder, or any other learning or developmental disability. Just saying.

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