The Town

The Town | Crime/Drama | rated R (L,V) | starring Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively | directed by Ben Affleck | 2:03 mins

In the Boston suburb of Charleston, where bank robbery is a way of life handed down generationally, there are a group of guys who are masters at it. There’s the architect of the heists Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), the driver, the inside man and the hot-head James (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker). But when Doug falls for the manager of the bank they just robbed and abducted (Rebecca Hall) he starts thinking he can do more with his life. Trying to keep her from knowing his true identity Doug tries to get out of “the town” before a bloodhound FBI agent (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) closes in and takes down the group.

The big news here is that The Town is director Ben Affleck’s 2nd movie, a big draw when his first was the modest crime masterpiece Gone Baby Gone. One of my very favorite movies of it’s year Gone Baby Gone is a tough act to follow. The Town is entertaining to be sure, but doesn’t reach the head-spinning plot turns, large moral themes or great “what would you do?” discussion points of Baby. It’s a leaner, more conventional genre picture. Which isn’t bad considering what a master Affleck has proven behind the camera. This is Affleck’s crime movie. Specifically Affleck’s Heat given that the movie climaxes in a terrific wild west shoot-out where assault rifles rain bullets on cop cars.

However, the meat of The Town is the ever-tenuous relationship between Affleck and Hall’s characters. Their chemestry is just OK so the film meanders around between robberies. The premise recalls the Don Roose/Affleck romance Bounce in which a relationship is built on a lie that at any moment threatens to be pulled out from under the characters. Unlike Roos, Affleck doesn’t milk the scenario for suspense. When Hall’s character notices a distinct Fighting Irish tattoo on the back of the neck of one of her robbers, the opportunity is there for an earthquaking moment of suspense. To get us to the edge of our seats to root for it not to be discovered. But that, as is Hamm’s entire FBI investigation, all plays out very simply, suddenly and unceremoniously. Greatly reducing the dramatic impact.

When the action scenes do roll around they are spectacular. The afformentioned shoot-out and a mid-movie car chase are the best action sequences put on film to date this year. If nothing else The Town is an A+ audition reel to show off Affleck’s skills as an action director. I never thought I’d say this but based on Town I would love to see Affleck try his hand at a Jason Bourne or Die Hard film. It’s that good. It’s that raw, real car-crunching action where the camera careens around at street level. No cheesy CGI.

More conventional and formulaic then you might expect after Gone Baby Gone, with a cast of great performers stretching under-written characters (particularly Rennner, again as The Wild Card) to the max. The Town lacks as an overall satisfying movie, but is still a terrifically entertaining one for the crime crowd.

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