Promotion for The Town touts it as “from the acclaimed director of Gone Baby Gone” which appears to be a deliberate dodge to avoid naming the film’s director – Ben Affleck. The concern being that if people see that Ben Affleck directed the picture – a guy possibly most famous for his previous relationship with Jennifer Lopez – it won’t be taken seriously. Given that Affleck has delivered the goods with two films now, maybe his directorial work can come out of the fine print.
A group of robbers from the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown knock over a bank, taking bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Concerned that Claire might have seen something, trigger happy James (Jeremy Renner) wants Doug (Ben Affleck) to follow her movements to ensure they’re in the clear. When Doug starts seeing Claire, tensions between Doug and his crew flare while FBI agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) steadily builds the pressure.
As a whole this is a good heist film. It kicks off with tornadic fury and keeps the film moving with other robberies. Affleck stands out as the nice thief to Renner’s twitchy James who is a territorial pug you do not want to try and pet. The contrast of these characters’ demeanors maintains our sympathies for Doug as he tries to leave the neighborhood that got him into the crime business in the first place.
So there are solid elements to the film, but other areas don’t hold well under scrutiny. Doug’s relationships with James, Claire, his father (Chris Cooper), and his crime boss, Fergie get the flashcard treatment when they deserve paragraphs for even chapters. These weaker development points are not aided by the film’s abrupt transitions, which feel like a car in need of some transmission work.
And I pray that this was just a problem with my cinema’s sound system, but the sound design was awful! Boston accented mumblings (where’s the ADR?!) that sometimes lack the proper volume leave question marks above your noggin. Further, a particularly action packed shoot-out lacked the proper audio punches to the chest that make such scenes thrilling. If it wasn’t just my specific cinema, then this goes right along side Public Enemy as an unfinished film (thought not with nearly the amount of egregious technical issues of Enemy).
Affleck’s first film Gone Baby Gone was an enthralling drama that made Casey Affleck a believable badass and brought class consciousness to the forefront. The Town tries to explore some of these same themes (sans Affleck’s younger brother), but isn’t provided the proper time frame to fully accomplish this task.
Despite these complaints, The Town still stacks up as a good action drama – something Affleck can be proud of.