Today: April 19, 2024
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The Town

If Ben Affleck’s
directorial debut Gone Baby Gone went some way in helping him to regain
credibility after his much publicised relationship (and break-up) with Jennifer
Lopez, then his new film The Town is a chance to really prove himself and fully
rebuild his formerly shattered career. Fortunately, with this tense crime drama,
Affleck regains his leading man credentials and further establishes himself
as quite an exceptional director
.

After informative text
on the screen explains that Charlestown, Boston has produced more bank and
armoured car robbers than anywhere else in the US, the film starts with Doug
MacRay (Affleck) about to raid a bank with his partners in crime, including the
hot-headed, trigger-happy Jem (Renner)
. During the heist, an alarm is raised and Jem takes manager
Claire (Hall) as a hostage. After the gang make a clean getaway and Claire is
released, Jem discovers that she lives in their neighbourhood and becomes
paranoid that she might be able to recognise them. Knowing what Jem is capable
of, Doug takes charge and seeks out Claire, and a chance encounter
inadvertently leads to a relationship.

As he and Claire
become more deeply involved, Doug wants to leave Charlestown and escape his
life of crime, but with the FBI, led by Agent Frawley (Hamm), closing in and
Jem questioning his loyalty, Doug realises that getting out will not be easy
and, worse, may put Claire in the line of fire. Then, as Doug struggles to
choose between betraying his friends and losing the woman he loves
, a dangerous criminal known as The
Florist reels him in to lead another, more high-profile, robbery.

While the plot in
itself is not entirely original, with a series of clichés coming into play (like
Doug’s ‘one last job’ climax), the film’s faithful Boston setting lends the
story an authenticity that sets it apart from most other crime films
. With thick accents and distinctly
un-Hollywood-like extras playing the locals, The Town represents a genuine
portrayal of the seedy side of Charlestown that provides a perfectly gritty arena
for the gang’s law-breaking offences.

Within this context,
the film feels reminiscent of a classic 70s heist movie, particularly in the
way that the action set-pieces have been shot. One lengthy car chase
sequence brilliantly builds tension rather than displays flashy stunts
and brings to mind The French Connection,
while the climactic shoot-out is the best of its kind to be released in cinemas
since perhaps 1995’s Heat. This is not to say that The Town is an instant
classic, but Affleck’s commitment to grounding the film in reality is a welcome
departure from this summer’s popcorn blockbusters.

However, the film’s
real strengths lie in the superb acting from the main cast. Affleck took on the
difficult task of directing himself in the lead role but the result is a well-layered
portrayal of a conflicted man who has lost his way
. While it is always clear that
Doug’s crimes are wrong, both the script and Affleck’s performance help provide
the sense that his actions are understandable, just not justified.

As lead character, the
focus remains on Doug throughout the film, but stealing every possible scene is
Jeremy Renner, who, as the borderline psychotic Jem, is virtually
unrecognisable from his Oscar-nominated role in The Hurt Locker. As Jem
represents a polar opposite to Doug – a person who has resigned himself to a
life of crime and has grown steadily more violent as a result – Renner plays
him with an unpredictability that makes for some of the film’s most nail-biting
moments
. And when
Renner is not on screen to take attention away from Affleck, then Blake Lively,
best known as Serena in TV’s Gossip Girl, gives a truly astonishing turn as
Jem’s sister Krista, a promiscuous junkie who tries to tie Doug down to his
life in Charlestown.

The film falters
slightly in a few places: the FBI’s investigation into Doug and his gang
occasionally stutters and feels inconclusive, while the ending feels too abrupt
and out of step with the rest of the story. Regardless, The Town remains a
remarkable thriller with rich performances and a gripping storyline
. Now having directed two quite
exceptional films, few could complain if Affleck decided to concentrate on a
career solely behind the camera rather than in front of it.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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