I have some confessions to make: Even with the persistent recommendation from a certain reviewer on this site I have never really had the inclination to see Ben Affleck’s first directed big screen film, Gone Baby Gone. (2) I seem to have a subconscious aversion to films involving bank robbery. No Inside Man or Public Enemies for me. (3) A certain upset in a World Series a few years back has led me to have negative feelings towards Boston. Clearly this film has a lot to make up for to win me over, yet The Town manages to quite easily. Silly preconceived notions…
The Town personalizes the criminal underbelly of Charlestown by following the character of Doug MacRay, a man who is neck deep in this way of life as a bank robber. He and his crew are quite the professionals, yet somehow he makes the amateur mistake of bringing his work home with him, as his friend so adequately puts it. What he is referring to is a certain hiccup to their life of crime glory when Doug somehow manages to fall in love with the woman they took as a hostage during their last robbery. Now Doug has a reason to try to leave his lifestyle, but unfortunately his ties in the community and the FBI’s interest in him are making it hard for him to make a clean break.
Many may be hoping that The Town will lean towards an action oriented film, but in all honesty it is far closer to a dramatic performance piece for the actors about family, roots, responsibilities and all that meaty stuff. Thankfully the actors do a phenomenal job in presenting the story. Ben Affleck plays the conflicted hero and does a great job at bringing the audience into his character’s story to the point that it is hard not to hope that he does break free of this life. Surprisingly the same can be said for Jeremy Renner, who plays the more violent member of Doug’s crew, James. It is not surprising that Renner could turn out a strong performance; what is surprising is that I could care for a character like his, who revels in the darker elements of this world, like brutally attacking victims at the bank or taking hostages. Yet someone Renner manages to bring another side to his character, and I feared for his wellbeing when I probably shouldn’t have. Jon Hamm plays the lead FBI agent working to bring down Doug and his crew, and though his character is not given the emotional depth and backstory as some of the others, he still gives a commendable performance. In addition to the male leads, Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively give strong performances. I have seen little of Hall previously to this role, but her chemistry with Affleck is strong and I am excited to see what she has brought to other films. In addition to Hall, Lively brings a well of emotional depth to the film that I was pleasantly surprised by, even if she does not have as much screen time as the rest.
The drama does get heavy during the length of the film, but the strong action that opens the movie with the first bank robbery continues on in the few other heists throughout. The first robbery sets up the idea that these men do know what they are doing to a scary degree, and I had to remind myself what they were doing so as not to respect them for their preparation (I just never realized how much went into being successful at this). As excited as I was by this introduction to the action, it hardly competes for what comes later on, making it far too easy to cheer for the bad guys.
Overall the action beats do a great job to bookmark the emotional base of the film, which is lightened with a decent amount of comedy mixed in, and though it may drag slightly for those expecting something faster paced it is hard not to get drawn into the lives of these characters.
Final Grade: B+