Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Town

Ben Affleck loves his hometown. In his second directorial effort, he goes back to Boston (like he did the first time around for Gone Baby Gone). Specifically, The Town is set in Charlestown, which has the dubious distinction of producing more bank robbers than any other city in the world.

Doug (Ben Affleck) and his crew including his hot-headed friend James (Jeremy Renner) have got robbing banks down to a science — dousing the bank with bleach to mess up fingerprints and DNA and torching their getaway cars to destroy evidence. Yet James is a liability. He’s not content with just robbing the bank. He’s got a penchant for violence and you know that’s going to get him into real trouble at some point.

In the opening heist, they briefly hold a bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage before letting her go — but not before taking her license so they can find her if she talks to the police. The F.B.I. comes a-calling in the form of Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm), but Claire isn’t much help as she didn’t see their faces.

After looking at her license and realizing that she lives in the neighborhood, James wants to ‘get rid of’ her. Doug however, has another plan. He wants to know what she knows first, and before he knows it, he’s falling for her.

Ben knows his way around Boston and has managed to make a movie with an authentic look and feel. He knows the streets and he knows these characters. The Town draws you into it. You feel the hopelessness of a group of guys who inherit the family business, bank robbing. You feel for James because you know that someone living that close to the edge will eventually fall off of it. And, you feel for Doug because he does dare to want something different for himself even if he doesn’t really know how he’s going to get it.

Well-written and well-acted, The Town gave Jeremy Renner, who starred in last year’s Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, another opportunity to showcase an intense and explosive performance. Affleck and Rebecca Hall also craft a believable romance. Even Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively gave a solid performance as James’s sister and Doug’s part-time girlfriend. I only wish Jon Hamm had been given a little more to do.

To turn a Bostonian phrase: “The Town is one wicked cops and robbas tale!”

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