Rating: 3 out of 5
Ben Affleck’s acting career may have been eclipsed by fellow Good Will Hunting scribe Matt Damon, but he’s slowly reinventing himself as a director to be reckoned with. His surprisingly stunning debut feature, Gone Baby Gone, provided a measure of artistic redemption for the guy then best known as one-half of Bennifer.
His sophomore effort, The Town, returns to the blue-collar, mean streets of Boston. There’s just something about the city and its grit that makes it a fertile breeding ground for hardboiled crime drama. In this instance, one particular working-class suburb called Charlestown, famed as the bank robbery capital of the world, forms the basis of this classic cops and robbers tale.
Best friends Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) are two men born into an environment of criminality passed down through generations of Irish thugs. They come from a town where life as a career criminal is not only inevitable, it’s not necessarily even frowned upon by their community.
When their latest job doesn’t go exactly as planned, Cambridge bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) is rashly taken hostage to ensure a successful getaway. After releasing her, the crew soon realise that Claire is practically a neighbour and that having a surviving witness in such close proximity probably isn’t the wisest legal strategy.
James is adamant that Claire be ‘taken care of’, but what he doesn’t count on is that Doug would take that statement quite literally - when he (expectedly) falls in love with the one person whose testimony could send them to prison for a considerable stretch.
The Town's themes are reminiscent of many other similarly structured crime dramas, most glaringly being Michael Mann’s Heat. There’s the caring thief who wants to get away from the life of crime after one last job. Along the way the thief discovers the love of a good woman but is afraid that his past proclivity for violent heists might scare her away.
Then there’s of course the clever cop (played this time by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) who’s just as cunning as our antiheroes. In any other scenario he would be the good guy, but of course viewed via the warped prism of our protagonists, he’s the ruthless villain. Hamm is serviceable is this cookie-cutter role of the slick fed but one can’t help but gripe about his vastly underutilised talents.
The same can be said of Renner as the volatile and quick-tempered Doug. He is fabulous in Doug’s skin; one just wishes his characterization wasn’t so predictably conspicuous. Affleck calls his own number and gives his best performance in ages, which isn’t that lofty a compliment actually.
While Affleck’s direction is quite frankly derivative of James Gray’s abrasive aesthetic and the cultural distinctiveness of The Departed, he is undoubtedly an assured filmmaker. The Town may not be innovative but Affleck should be praised for delivering a solidly entertaining, if not groundbreaking crime opus.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.