With his sophomore directorial effort “The Town,” actor/director Ben Affleck proves that his debut, 2007’s critically acclaimed “Gone Baby gone,” was no fluke. Well, that and he’s really good at making movies featuring “angry Bahston punks”.
“The Town” in question is Charlestown, Mass. a Boston neighborhood that, according to the film, is the birthing ground to more bank robbers than you can keep track of; and it, like has come to be expected in Affleck films, makes an appropriately gritty setting for a triumphant ode to the heist films of old (“Heat,” “Point Break,” etc.).
The film follows Doug Macray (Affleck), a prototypical tortured-soul, criminal protagonist and his crew of bank robbers, including loose-cannon sidekick Jim “Gem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) as they commit an increasingly difficult string of robberies for the manipulative neighborhood boss, Fergus “The Florist” Colm (Pete Postlethwaite).
On the other side of the law, the FBI, lead by Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and his sidekick, Charlestown traitor Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) closes In on Macray and company as the story builds to the inevitable big job/ standoff between cops and robbers.
A budding romance between robbery number victim and yuppie-bank employee Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and Macray, and another with Coughlin’s troubled sister Krista (Blake Lively), adds depth and sexual tension.
That mixed with some inter-crew strife between Macray and Coughlin, and Macray’s rapidly increasing desire to leave the crime world (and Boston in general) in the rear-view, as well as a slow reveal of the mystery surrounding Macray’s mother all contribute to giving the film the depth needed to help it rise above the drab cesspool of hack action/crime stories.
Affleck certainly has a deep appreciation for, and understanding of the greater Boston area, and that combined with his knowledge and passion for film-making is seen throughout from costume design to character accents and mannerisms as well as a bevy of aerial and panoramic shots the really showcase the essence of the Boston cityscape and its working class population.
Particularly interesting and engaging is the symbolism of Macray’s two romantic attachments. Robbery victim Keesey, is a representation of where Macray wants to head in the future. She is friendly, clean, she volunteers at the local youth center and community garden, at times it seems as though she might be too good to be true, or at least too good to be possible for a guy like Macray. She represents nearly all of his good qualities.
Blake Lively’s portrayal of Krista Coughlin, arguably the most well-played in the film, as the often doped up, single mother of a toddler who may or may not be Macray’s, represents everything about his life up to this point, everything he wants to leave behind. And while she is definitely full of flaws, she is desperately loyal, which is symbolic of Charlestown culture in general.
Of all the characters in the film, including Macray, it is Krista Coughlin who, in a roundabout way, is the most human and endearing of them all.
Overall I think that “The Town,” is definitely worth the price of admission and is the type of movie that resonates well on the big screen.