The Town is Ben Affleck’s directorial follow-up to his impressive debut Gone Baby Gone. Where his previous film was perhaps a bit grimier and grittier, The Town boasts all the obvious step-ups in production value. The chases are slicker, and explosions are more grand, and it’s yet another Bostonian Crime film that holds your emotions in the palm of its hand for the entire two hours.
Ben Affleck gets a pretty bad rep from a lot of people who claim that his acting is hollow or wooden. Those folks made the mistake of thinking movies like The Sum of All Fears or Paycheck were going to be anything more than big-budget, special effects-laden popcorn flicks. Affleck never proved to be the weak link in his weaker films, and since turning his focus behind the camera he has shown a real great sense of telling a compelling and engaging story. In all honesty, Ben Affleck directs the movies Clint Eastwood would direct with an extra shot of adrenaline, a pair of testicles, and minimal sentimentality. With The Town, we are presented with an area (The Charlestown area of Boston) where it immediately becomes obvious that crime is the only real career choice for work.
Affleck plays Doug, the mastermind in a foursome of bank and armored truck thieves. The movie doesn’t stick its toes in the water for an overdrawn introduction; here, we’re thrown head first into the brutality of a bank robbery. Claire (Rebecca Hall) is forced to open the vault for the armed bastards in masks, then abducted when the robbers panic and think they need her for a way out. When Doug tails Claire for a few days following the robbery to see if she’s going to give any solid info to the fuzz, they actually end up in a relationship where Doug is torn between the life he wants in Florida with Claire, and the life he seems stuck with in Boston.
Affleck’s brooding Doug is a classic tortured leading man. Affleck proves he has far more in the acting chops department than most give him credit for. Doug is a criminal architect, and he seems to be the leader of the group of thugs. The classic “bad boy”of the group is Jim, played by The Hurt Locker‘s Jeremy Renner. Renner again bursts off the screen as the dynamo loose cannon in a group of skilled, tactical criminals. He’s a different kind of beast, in that he thinks more with his head than his heart, despite still seeming like he could snap and kill everyone at any time.
The two main fuzz are played by The Man in Black from Lost, and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. Hamm exudes the classic hero in spades, and he was equal parts hero and bad ass so that most of the audience doesn’t end up rooting for the criminals. It’s a brilliant career move for Hamm breaking into movies from his A-list television career. He has enough name recognition now to become a crossover star, and most importantly he’s always compelling on screen.
Rebecca Hall has been popping up in a lot of really good movies lately, and she has a regal quality about her that gives her characters an immeasurable sense of grace. She subtly bombards you with raw, internalized emotion, and her performance here is quite good for the genre. Most of the more “testosterone” covered movies have very, very little in terms of important, quality female characters. Hall’s Claire is both, innocent and important, so she’s double sympathetic.
Affleck’s direction is top of the line stuff for a crime movie, and it’s very cerebral in its composition. Unlike a lot of directors who film “big, bad city neighborhood” kind of stuff, Affleck never has to shove your face in just how tough the block is. You can see it from the circumstances in everything going on. You can see it on the faces of the characters.
Everything about The Town is top level. The film is a fantastic addition to the crime genre, and uses plenty of appeal for audiences of all genres. The action scenes are quick and heart racing, the drama is true and compelling, and the movie provides a taut environment for the fast-paced story to build towards. Overall it’s a great addition to a fun genre.
Score: 8.25/10 (Great)