The Town – Film Review
September 22, 2010 by prochaska.michael
Bank robbery has never appeared as abrasively gritty as it does in Ben Affleck’s second stab at director, ‘”The Town.” Affleck and Jeremy Renner star as blue-collar outlaws in Charlestown, Mass. – a town with an infamous title for most bank robbers in one square mile. The gang assembled for each heist is highly skilled, armed, and dangerous. Affleck is no Butch Cassidy, but he’s no murderer either.
“The Town” encapsulates the shameless life of working class street crooks. You won’t hear the typical Robin Hood-esque justification or any dialogue about bank insurance and repentance. These guys evade ethics like they dodge bullets. They pay a cut to gun suppliers and then spend the cash on drugs, strip-clubs and race tracks.
These are men haunted by abandonment and victimized by abuse, yet as a director and screenwriter Affleck still gives them a heart – most notably Affleck’s character, Doug. This is a guy who carries a gun with no intent to harm. He firmly objects to assaulting ‘heroes’ or taking hostages but when a job gets complicated his best friend in crime, Jem (Renner), is forced to do both. Rebecca Hall plays Claire, the hostage, who is blindfolded but eventually walks away unscathed.
To make sure Claire didn’t see anything that could land the crew in prison, Doug unsubtly stalks and romances her. The flirts eventually find love but their relationship intensifies as tensions build with Jem and robbery death counts get higher.
The pseudo love story is an essential catalyst to Doug’s atonement and attempted escape from a life of crime but Hall is miscast as a dainty, flat character cloaked in vulnerability and indecisiveness. The chemistry between Claire and Doug is as compelling as a politician’s promise, but “The Town” redeems its credibility with the convincingly in-depth look into each score.
Sure, the humorously grisly masks are nothing new for bandit movies, but never have I seen a heist film in which the crooks douse cell phones in fish bowls and microwave surveillance videos. Affleck’s attention to elaborate detail in what is perfunctory to his characters is just one side to a multifaceted film about ambivalent morality and murky justice.
Sometimes, “The Town” makes brazen statements of symbolism, such as Jem lecturing Doug on the importance of the street life code of honor in front of a cemetery. Other times, it comments on issues such as Stockholm syndrome, police corruption, prison reform, and capital punishment. I particularly enjoyed one subtle critique on the judiciary system when Jon Hamm’s character says, “All of their alibis were paid for a week in advance.”
“The Town” is as deep and realistic as a big budget Hollywood action flick can get, but the car chases, explosions, and shoot out sequences aren’t the real meat of the story. Affleck has found a niche for humanizing the brick laying felons of Middle America, and for that ‘The Town’ deserves a second viewing as much as criminals deserve a second chance.