The Town

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Ben Affleck

Starring

Ben Affleck Jeremy Renner Rebecca Hall

Anticipation.

The boys are back (in town).

Enjoyment.

A top notch action flick undone by flashes of ego.

In Retrospect.

Doesn’t live long in the memory.

The Town’s true colours are there, but you’ll have to scratch through a layer of Hollywood gloss to see them.

When Ben Affleck went home to direct his debut feature, Gone Baby Gone, it was seen as a somewhat unexpected career move. The result, of course, was earth shattering; earning Affleck artistic clout and resurrecting his acting career in one deafening statement of intent. Three years on and expectation for Affleck’s directorial follow-up is understandably high. Too high, perhaps.

Once again Affleck is back in Boston, this time returning to the tough streets of Charlestown, the self-proclaimed bank-job capital of the world. It’s here we meet lifelong friends and pardnaas Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and James ‘Jem’ Coughlin (Jeremy Renner). They’re Boston born and breed, and they’re about to leave their mark on a Cambridge bank and its manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall).

With the heat on, the boys take Claire hostage to secure their getaway. It’s a rash move, and one which comes back to haunt them when Claire’s close proximity to their illicit operation is revealed. As the only witness able to testify against them, Jem sees Claire as a risk and decides she needs to be ‘taken care of’. Doug steps up. And takes care of it. In his own way…

All stubble and swagger, The Town plays out in typically testosterone-charged fashion, as the feds (led by a hard-talking Jon Hamm, who’s distinguished by his badge and an urbane side-parting, but never the good guy) close in on the gang’s ruthless operation. Despite delivering some blistering set pieces, augmented by a fiercely loud sound design, however, The Town lacks the character texture that has made the Boston-set crime thriller such a prominent sub-genre in recent years.

Where Gone Baby Gone and Scorsese’s The Departed made the most of the city’s strong cultural identity, The Town is more focused on romantic subplots that are always doomed from the start. As such location shots of Fenway Park and Bunker Hill seem shoehorned in, while the more interesting character backstories – a local FBI agent who turned his back on Charlestown, Doug’s troubled relationship with his inmate father – are left underdeveloped.

Again Affleck has adapted his film from an acclaimed Boston-set novel (Chuck Hogan’s ‘Prince of Thieves’), but this time the ‘Townies’, cops and cons alike, just aren’t as real. The Town’s true colours are there, but you’ll have to scratch beneath a layer of Hollywood fluff to see them. Crime pays, chicks dig bad boys, the estranged ex will spoil the show, the livewire sidekick will go out in a shower bullets and brimstone; all these crime clichés and more are reinforced to a fault.

Ultimately when Ben Affleck the director does the talking, The Town is first rate. But as the film’s cringingly ill-judged epilogue shows, it’s the glimpses of Ben Affleck the movie star that lets the team down.

Published 23 Sep 2010

Tags: Ben Affleck Jeremy Renner

Anticipation.

The boys are back (in town).

Enjoyment.

A top notch action flick undone by flashes of ego.

In Retrospect.

Doesn’t live long in the memory.

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