Movie Review: The Town


Hailing from the notorious Charlestown, Boston, a young thief falls in love with a bank teller and tries to get out of the crime game.


Ben Affleck, 2010

At a bank in Boston, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and his buddies are committing an armed robbery. Wearing masks, he and his friends, including the livewire Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), hold the bank’s workers and customers at gunpoint and take money from the safe. Afterwards, Doug follows teller Claire (Rebecca Hall), concerned about her involvement with FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm). As he becomes closer to Claire, Doug grows more distant from his best friend Jim and Jim’s sister Krista (Blake Lively), with whom Doug has had an on-again, off-again relationship since high school. Doug starts looking for a way to get away from the violent criminal culture he’s grown up in. Through his relationship with Claire, Doug starts to see a ray of hope for the future.


Coming from excellent director and average actor Ben Affleck, The Town is a tense little story about class, crime and hope. It came out two years before his Oscar-winning Argo, which is a much more entertaining movie. While it’s well-acted and tense, this drama feels too preachy at times, feeling occasionally like a documentary about Charlestown with reenactments than a story within itself. There’s a talking heads section that’s genuinely odd and doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie at all, and the film’s narrative doesn’t quite fill out a feature length. Still, it shows off some of Affleck’s better directorial skills: his ability to create tension, his focus on the human side of tragic events, and his skill with an ensemble cast. There’s some great visual notes like the image of Jim under a nun’s mask staring down a child witness, and some notes ring alarmingly true. The movie’s tendency not to take the easy road and to reveal things in a surprising way is good too.

What The Town doesn’t showcase is Affleck’s acting ability, mostly because it’s not apparent at all. He’s surrounded himself with good actors, particularly the Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner as ticking time bomb Jim, a raw nerve of a human being whose energy and emotionality have all been honed to create a violent and unpredictable man. Blake Lively acquits herself well as his sister, too, getting one of the film’s best scenes as she opens up to Hamm’s fed, though there’s an alarming Madonna/whore dynamic between her and Rebecca Hall as Claire. Hall does a lot with little in terms of the script, mostly being called upon to be sweet and likeable. Pete Postlethwaite is excellent in his second-to-last role as gang leader Fergie, a florist with a thick accent and a violent nature. Ultimately the film’s failing is that you don’t really want Doug to succeed in getting away with it all; he’s caused too much damage and pain, and Affleck doesn’t make him accessible enough as a real person, instead creating a representative of Charlestown in human form.

The Town on IMDb


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