The Town is built upon a cinematic cliché, the repentant criminal who finds it almost impossible to escape his surroundings, environment and peers. Fortunately, director Ben Affleck does a terrific job with the source material and has produced a gritty, exciting and satisfying crime film that ranks with the best of its genre.
The film opens up with a bank robbery, and it’s clear immediately that this isn’t a suave, sophisticated gang of thieves who are going to charm their victims, but a tough band of thugs who use physical force and intimidation to frighten them. Affleck plays disaffected criminal Doug MacRay, a lifelong Charlestown (Boston) resident who commits heists with his dangerously violent brother James (Jeremy Renner).
The bank robbery doesn’t transpire as planned and they grab bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and use her as a hostage to guarantee a smooth getaway. On Doug’s urging, they release her unharmed and when FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) later interviews her, he’s suspicious. But can Claire identify the robbers? That’s the central question in the film, and Doug begins stalking her — and then dating her — to ensure she doesn’t rat them out. Add in the “one more job” trope and you’ve got The Town.
Even with the occasionally ragged storyline, the action was exciting, the dialog gritty, vulgar and believable, the film reeked of verisimilitude, the performances were all spot-on, and the exterior shots of Boston were terrific. I really enjoyed The Town and anticipate Affleck becoming a reliable director of great films, much as Clint Eastwood has transformed his career and become one of the top directors in Hollywood. In a nutshell: go see The Town. You won’t regret it.