Today: May 23, 2024

The Town DVD

Ben Affleck well and truly
proves that he is a director to take notice of in his sophomore effort of
thrilling bank robbers and the bonds that bind them.

When
Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck’s first
feature film behind the camera, came out in 2007 it was something of a
revelation. Here was an actor who for all too long had been derided for making
incredibly bad career choices, 2003’s Gigli was the pinnacle of those bad
decisions. So how was it an actor who had seen his casting choices so greatly
diminished had achieved such a powerfully subtle film behind the camera? The
answer, based on that first outing and now The Town, is simple he has a God
given talent of telling stories that far surpass his decision-making ability.

Doug
MacRay (Affleck) and his best friend Jem (Renner)
run a crew of bank robbers in Charlestown Boston. When Jem sees fit to take the
bank manager Claire (Hall), of their
latest heist, hostage little do they realise that she lives in their neighbourhood.
So with FBI agent Frawley (Hamm) hot
on their heels MacRay takes it upon himself to make sure Claire cannot ID any
of the robbers and soon finds himself falling for the girl. All the while local
hood Fergie (Postlethwaite) is
breathing down the boys neck to pull off another job.

As
action thrillers go The Town is not necessarily anything original. There are obvious parallels to be drawn
between this and Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), but to Affleck’s credit he
embraces these easy comparisons
. In one scene MacRay sits in his living
room with Heat playing in the background and by all accounts men of this ilk
see De Niro Vs Pacino as some kind of Biblical text to live by. Crucially though The Town is less operatic
and more intimate than Heat. It focuses, almost exclusively, on MacRay and his
gang and less so on John Hamm’s FBI agent trying to track them down
.

Using
Charlestown Boston, as The Town of the title, takes Affleck back to the
stomping ground that served him so well in films like Good Will Hunting and
Gone Baby Gone. While Affleck perfectly
captures the intimacy between his characters he also excels in allowing the
Bostonian ticks to seep into the audience
. This is not a place you take a
late night stroll through the park, as Hall’s character finds out, but instead
one that drips with menace and violence.

It
becomes clear that The Town is somewhere very real to Affleck and as such the
film never looks too glamorised. Everything
is gritty and the violence is never over the top or stylised but instead wince
inducing and quick
. Like the
gang within the film Affleck’s direction is methodical yet hugely kinetic and
hurried when the tension is racked up in action sequences. Crucial to this is a
hand-held style that adds rather than distracts to the action. A car chase
midway through the film is all about getting out of the tight streets of the
city rather than watching cars explode in giant balls of flame. It is a hugely
tense event that is made so by simple, yet effective direction combined with
brilliant editing.

Over
the course of his career Affleck has obviously made a few friends and the cast
assembled for The Town more than matches that of Gone Baby Gone. Rebecca Hall
brings an inherently shy side to Claire that contrasts with the women MacRay
normally encounters. Affleck has certainly matured as an actor and in doing so
finds an understated manner with which to play MacRay. He is never anything
less than likeable as the man desperate to break free of this life that seems
to have become his destiny and yet when on the job Affleck exudes confidence as
MacRay the consummate professional. John
Hamm, still the best thing on TV as Mad Men’s Don Draper, is unfortunately
underused but when on screen cuts a powerful figure and one who you certainly
would not want hot on your heels
. Jeremy Renner continues to be nothing
short of an electric screen presence. Whenever
Jem is around the film crackles with underlying aggression, and his portrayal
of a man who revels in violence is always compelling
. Special mention should also go to Blake Lively, the Gossip girl proves that
her destiny lies outside teen drama and up on the big screen. As the ‘other’
woman in MacRay’s life she manages to seer herself into your memory with her
performance as a broken young girl on the edge of an existence
.

Crisp effective and utterly
compelling The Town manages to rise above its origins and become a truly
fascinating character driven thriller.
What is more if Affleck continues along these lines
and elicits performances like this on a regular basis he will become a
genuinely great director. You might not
to move there but a visit to The Town is a must.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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