Written by J.T. Johnson
“The Town” is the latest directorial effort from actor Ben Affleck. While one might have something to say about some of Affleck’s past acting gigs, no one can deny that he has become a formidable director. This movie turns out to be one of the better films of the year.
The story is set in Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston known for its string of high-end robberies. All of the drama and action surrounds Doug MacRay (Affleck), a career criminal who is looking for the next step in his life. The film opens with a bank robbery and Doug and his gang end up having to improvise when a silent alarm is unexpectedly tripped.
Doug’s right-hand man and best friend, Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), takes the bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), as leverage and they eventually let her go. Things are further complicated when Doug follows Claire to make sure that she did not reveal anything to the authorities. Sure enough, he ends up falling in love with her. FBI Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm), the man sent in to investigate the robberies, does not help matters, either.
One of the biggest highlights of the film is in the action. There are only three robberies in the film and Affleck directs each one with the confidence of directors like “Heat’s” Michael Mann. In fact, the story and the tone of the film are very reminiscent of Mann’s masterpiece crime thriller.
Another highlight of the film is the fact that it never gets too gory for its own good. Blood and guts work well in a film like “Machete”, but here restraint makes for better and more powerful scenes. Also, with the action in the film, Affleck somehow makes most of the surrounding drama just as exciting.
He also has a good cast to back him up. Renner, an actor who found acclaim with his performance in “The Hurt Locker”, turns in another award-worthy performance as Jem. Along with Doug, Jem is obviously the one who could care less if he has to pull the trigger and make someone a widow. However, Renner never loses the character’s own humanity and it is Jem’s loyalty to Doug and subtle humor that keeps the audience’s sympathy.
Hall also does a good job as Claire, a woman who is having to deal with the bank robbery and is oblivious to the fact that Doug was her recent kidnapper. The only problem is the fact that the scenes she shares with Affleck are also the weakest and most melodramatic. It is not either of the actor’s faults and the blame can be laid squarely with the script.
Hamm is the only actor that feels miscast. While he does turn in a decent performance, I never truly felt like he was a dedicated agent who cares to bring down Doug and his men. It was sad to see a talented actor not used to his fullest potential.
Another actor that is wasted is Chris Cooper. The veteran actor plays Doug’s imprisoned father and he only shows up for one scene. While it is always great to see Cooper no matter how many times, it feels as though there was a missed opportunity to really see where Doug came from. This would have been much better than to have Doug simply give an oral biography during his poorly written scenes with Claire.
After receiving rave reviews for his directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone”, Affleck has sharpened his talents as a filmmaker and has delivered a taut and gripping crime thriller. Here is to hoping that Affleck keeps it up and continues with his new career in directing.