Boys grow up to be cops or robbers and rarely set foot out of Boston.
The Town is a cops and robbers movie rooted in the "just one more job"
theme of crime stories. The focus, as it so often does, falls on a crook with a
wisp of redemption in his DNA. "I want to change my life." If this sounds
ordinary, Ben Affleck's Boston heist movie has more than enough pluses to cover
up its flaws. The story moves like the wind, erasing all temptation to pause and
ponder various preposterous twists and turns.
Affleck, who co-wrote and directed, tells us in an opening film note that in the Charlestown section of Boston, bank robbery is a profession often handed from father to son. Theirs is a community where boys grow up to be cops or robbers and rarely set foot out of Boston. This sense of place is a hugely affecting part of the story.
The movie opens with a slick armed robbery where a mistake ends in the taking of a hostage, a lovely young bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). Increasingly reluctant robber Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) turns protector to Claire and falls in love. When Doug's best buddy, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), demands that he join in "just one more job," Doug replies,."We hit pause after that."
What makes this one special? Wonderful filming of Boston Harbor and its surroundings for one thing. Panoramic aerials give us the big picture before zeroing in on grisly crime scenes. We visit Boston's sights in short, sharp bursts of action between various combinations of characters. It's Boston to the core.
If you love car chases, there's some great driving here including a novel head over tea kettle truck crash. If you love relationships, you'll thrive on these - mother/son, father/son, girl/boy, and honor among thieves. Characters are drawn in telling detail. It's amazing how comfortable Ben Affleck is in his Boston movies and how awkward he can be in others (Pearl Harbor). He has done a fine job as actor and director here, and he has excellent support. Rebecca Hall is appealing and entirely credible as a Boston bank manager - strong and independent, but vulnerable to the guy who protects her. Pete Postlethwaite does a truly nasty turn as master planner, Chris Cooper is good but grim as Doug's father. The mega talented Jeremy Renner is an indelible thief, and "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm has the problem of being just too good looking for any role.
The flaws? Well, it takes a devil of a long time to kill someone in this movie. Yes, good and bad guys all wear bullet proof vests, but they don't wear them on their heads. Are the overly prolonged battle scenes essential to the excitement? Probably. Still, by the time the terrific finale unfolds at Fenway Park, we are interested in the fate of every character. That means just one thing: great cast. Add to that Affleck's guided missile momentum and you have a terrific story. Forget the flaws.
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