Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Town is Like Any Other Town

The Town

Can anyone name a member of the National Board of Review? Who are they? And why do so many film lovers, myself included, go into hysterics once they release their annual best of the year list? Despite not knowing who actually comprises the NBR, their annual best of list marks the official start of the three month long award season. Though I normally agree with their selections, there have been times when the NBR has unjustly raised my hopes for a film. Such was the case with the cops and robbers caper, The Town. As The Town made NBR’s top ten list this year, I was expecting the film to have something truly magical. That special moment which made The Town standout above the other 250 films that the NBR screened this year. Instead, The Town ended up being a standard crime film with a few well shot action sequences.

Set in the Charlestown section of Boston, notoriously known for the high percentage of criminals it produces, The Town follows a group of friends as they try to elude the FBI while going after one final score. Ring leader Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is starting to tire of the criminal lifestyle. Although good at what he does, he knows that if he stays in Charlestown he will end up behind bars like his father, Stephen (Chris Cooper). Doug envisions a better life for himself after meeting Claire (Rebecca Hall), who happens to be the manager of a bank MacRay’s team has robbed. While Doug longs for a life outside of Charlestown, his best friend James (Jeremy Renner) wants the team to continue their streak of bank robberies. With FBI Agent Frawley (John Hamm) closing in on the gang, Doug must decide where is loyalties truly lie.

The Town is a decent, if not predictable, crime movie. What makes the film work for the most part are the performances from the cast. Not to mention the skilled direction of Ben Affleck. Affleck proved with his directorial debut, and vastly superior film, Gone Baby Gone, that he knows how to get strong performances out of his cast. I especially enjoyed the work of Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper in their very brief cameos. I also like how Affleck orchestrates his action sequences. The heist scenes, particularly the one that evolves into a brilliant car chase scene with the gang evading the cops in a minivan. These are easily the most tenses moments in the entire film.

So why did this film not “wow” me the way it did the NBR? I just could not get past its predictability. Not to mention that The Town has too many loose ends which are never fully realized. The two most interesting aspects of the story are Doug’s relationship with his father, and the father’s past with Fergus (Postlethwaite). Unfortunately we only get a small snippet of the father/son arc. The audience must rely on Fergus to shed further light into Stephen’s defeated state. Yet Fergus is introduced far too late in the picture. The Town spends so much time building up both the love story and the Doug/Agent Frawley angle that the sudden appearance of Fergus towards the end seems rather out of place. Either introduce Fergus sooner, and cut down on the pointless Krista (Blake Lively) plotline, or leave both him and Stephan out of the picture completely.

As heist films go, The Town is enjoyable as it often feels like a lighter version of Michael Mann’s Heat. The film works best if you temper your expectations. If you go in expecting anything more you will be greatly disappointed. Many are calling The Town one of the year’s best films, but it is ultimately nothing more than a competent crime film that may keep you entertained for a few hours. 


  1. It may not be as good as Gone Baby Gone, but Affleck shows that he isn't a flash in the pan. He directs these action sequences so well, that you actually almost feel like you are there. Which not many films do nowadays.

  2. @CMrok93 - I agree that Affleck has a good future ahead of him as a director. I would love to see him tackle other genres moving forward though.

  3. Watching this at the weekend and you have lowered my expectations which is never a bad thing.

  4. @AngryMovieLurker - I would be interested to read your thoughts on the film after you get a chance to process it.


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