23 September 2010

Review: "The Town"

The Town is only Ben Affleck's second film after 2007's Gone Baby Gone, which starred Amy Ryan (The Wire) and garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. His second feature is a less complex story but it has more focus and stronger direction than his first film, which I only recently saw. Ben Affleck's maturity as a director parallels his growth as an actor. I would compare his evolution to that of George Clooney in The American. He has cast three very talented actors whose careers have skyrocketed in recent years. Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) are the real treasures of the film, with two emotionally complex performances. It is a shame that Jon Hamm, who is unfairly trapped in our minds as Don Draper from Mad Men, was given the throwaway stock character of an FBI agent. The Town is a skillfully paced and terrifically acted film and my only complaint is that the action sequences seem forced and over the top. Ben Affleck is an actor's director and The Town is a good thriller that succeeds because its empathetic characters. I can only hope that Ben Affleck continues to mature as an actor and a director.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) grew up on the streets of Charlestown in Boston. The Town tells us that Charlestown has the highest concentration of bank robbers in the United States. Doug and his friends Jem (Renner), Gloansy (Slaine) and Dez (Owen Burke) have committed a string of robberies for their boss Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite). During a robbery at a bank they are forced to take the bank manager hostage. The manager, Claire Keesey (Hall), happens to live in Charlestown and the team is worried that she will recognize them on the street. Jem wants to be the one to confront her but Doug convinces him that he is better suited for the job. Unbeknownst to the team Doug begins having a relationship with Claire. Meanwhile the robbery has caught the attention of the FBI. Agent Adam Frawley (Hamm) is put in charge and eventually deduces that Fergie is the crime boss and the men work for him. Doug and his team are so good at robbing banks that the FBI is unable to arrest them due to lack of evidence. Doug wants to leave the crime world behind and after Fergie threatens Claire's life he is forced to agree to a major robbery that will put everyone's life in jeopardy.

The Town is a better than average thriller because the film makes and effort to develop the characters. This could have been just another action film dependent on action sequences and gunfights, but Ben Affleck and his cast have crafted a film about characters rather than action. Even Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) did a respectable job as a jilted lover and drug addict. Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner are still the stars of the film. Hall restrains her emotions and keeps them buried while Renner is decidedly more extroverted. There is such a contrast in their eyes. Claire's eyes show the pain that she is trying to suppress whereas Jem's eyes show us anger and resentment that is about to boil over. The Town does have some great thrills but it become a better film because of the incredibly talented cast. Lastly, I hope that Ben Affleck is eventually able to get out of Boston because it would be great to see some versatility.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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