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#22. The Town - Review 

The Town (2010) Poster

Ben Affleck’s 2007 directorial debut Gone Baby Gone had completely blown me away. I did not expect such a mature, thoughtful picture from a guy who never really made the best career choices as an actor. Gigli, Jersey Girl, Daredevil, Bounce, Surviving Christmas, these are just a few of the ridiculously terrible films Ben Affleck has starred in. I know the man is intelligent; he won a best screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting, so why did he think it was a smart career decision to play a character named Ollie Trinke? My point is you cannot really blame me for having low expectations for the guy.

Ben Affleck in The Town

It is now three years later, and Affleck’s sophomore effort has finally hit theaters. Based off of the Chuck Hogan novel Prince of Thieves, The Town follows four Boston bank-robbers hitting one bank after another, all the while avoiding the grasp of a wily FBI agent (John Hamm… sexy). The gang’s quietly focused leader is Doug Macray (Affleck), who learned everything you would need to know about being a thief from his old man (Chris Cooper). Macray unwittingly falls for one of his hostages, the beautiful bank teller Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and decides he wants out of the family business. Of course it’s never as easy as it should be, so Macray has to perform one last job to buy his freedom.

Sound familiar?

I am just going to get this out of the way right now; this movie was not as good as it should have been. It was good, but I honestly expected greatness. Not just because Gone Baby Gone was so great, but that trailer was amazing. It was expeditious, exciting, and most of all engaging. The film on the other hand never really delivers on the promises made by the trailer. The film has a lot of trouble with pacing, and Affleck never commits to the story he wants to tell. This movie spends as much time on its characters as it does on the robberies, but unfortunately both the robberies and the characters are still very neglected. Affleck gives the audience little to no insight into the planning of each of the crew’s heists, forgoing the usual scenes of casing the bank, studying schematics, clocking the security guards, and the like. I suspect Affleck subscribed to the idea that the less we knew going in to each job, the more exciting each particular scene would be. That sounds reasonable on paper, but regrettably the outcome left me slightly disoriented and unfulfilled. Those scenes of preparation, typically found in a heist film, are there to build up anxiousness and anticipatory excitement in the audience. Macray may have a lot at stake in successfully completing his next job, but I as a viewer have nothing invested in that success. The robberies themselves are very well done. They are intense, violent, and well choreographed, spanning many different locations of Boston and Charlestown. Affleck’s attention to detail is meticulous, and he carries over his Boston obsession from Gone Baby Gone, dedicating plenty of screen time to the city’s streets and natives.

The Town (2010) Poster / Banner

The lack of character development disappointed me as well. Other than Macray, Affleck devotes very little time to his cast other than to keep the story moving. Macray’s crew is filled with interesting and unique personalities, each man completely devoted to the other. Their relationship is not earned, not even through exposition. We know a little of Macray’s best friend and partner Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), but not enough to inspire any kind of sympathy from the audience, and definitely not enough to explain the camaraderie and allegiance shared by each man. Then there is FBI agent Adam Frawely (John Hamm) who is as one-sided as a character could possibly be. He catches bad guys, Macray is a bad guy, and so he wants to catch Macray. That is the evolution of this character. Why cast an actor like John Hamm, who can be both seductively charming and ferociously dominant at the same time, and then give him absolutely nothing to do? That character, when handled correctly, can be the most entertaining part of a film. I am thinking of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can, Denzel Washington in Inside Man, or even Keanu Reeves in Point Break. The only actor who makes the most of his screen time is Pete Postlethwaite as Fergie “The Florist” Colm. He chews the scenery like a rare steak and gives a truly terrifying performance.

Pete Postlethwaite in The Town

Affleck gives his best performance on screen, maybe ever. He plays Doug Macray thoughtfully, but honest and realistic. The scenes he shares with Rebecca Hall were the strongest of the film, showcasing Affleck’s natural charisma and the appeal that made him a star in the first place.

Sadly The Town is not as finely executed as the bank robberies it portrays on screen. It does not completely stall, but Affleck’s lack of experience shows through when the plot, action scenes, and the character development handicap each other, never allowing a single component of the film to excel. In my opinion Ben Affleck is still one of the better actor/directors working today. And although he has yet to make a film as perfect as George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, I am still anxiously anticipating what the young director has in store for us in the future.

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Reader Comments (2)

Nicely done Brandon! I caught half of this preview on tv the other night and said "what the hell is that?" sort of excited about it. I was informed that it is a bank robbery movie which didn't completely turn me off (not necessarily my go-to movie plot), but then I was told "starring Ben Affleck". I was torn. I sort of...uh...hate him. Yes...I hate him. But the preview looked so good. I'm happy to have read this review because I can now happily wait for it to appear on Netflix!!!!!

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Yeah you are safe to wait for it on dvd... which is a total bummer. I didn't mention this in my review, but this was 2nd most anticipated movie this fall, after Jackass 3D...

September 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrandon Roberts

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