The Town

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The Town

Full Price Feature

If you, like me, were perplexed and put off by the ads and posters for The Town (think cars full of weird, wrinkly nun figures as the only salient image), please rectify your loss and see it if you can. Star and director Ben Affleck has given us a film with a great premise and execution and a load of solid performances. The titular town is Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston famous for producing bank robbers and thieves. Affleck plays one of these local lowlifes, rolling with a tight-knit crew that includes human powderkeg Jeremy Renner. The grungy charm of these men belies the laserlike efficiency of their bank jobs. And by bank jobs, I don’t mean that they are tellers.

Something changes for Affleck early in the film, after a robbery goes not quite according to plan. I don’t want to give too much away, but the crew takes a hostage, and she ends up getting under his skin. His character is put in a precarious position of protector — protector of himself, his crew, a woman, secrets. He walks a fine line of lies while also being very true and solid to each of his divergent loyalties. Meanwhile, an uncharacteristically de-glammed Jon Hamm tries to track down the perpetrators through the one real witness of any use, a fragile yet resilient Rebecca Hall. Renner does not disappoint as usual, providing a boyish ferality as a foil to Affleck’s sympathetic slick guy. Everyone dances a seemingly unpredictable dance, yet all the steps are perfectly managed in the end.

I have to say, this film sucked me in — in simple terms, I just disappeared into the narrative and didn’t think about Affleck directing himself or what was likely to happen. I just rode The Town for its full duration and marveled at its centered and even charm. As a director, Affleck has bottled the same lightning he did for Gone Baby Gone. With the additional challenge of being the lead (a one-two punch normally reserved for stalwarts like Clint Eastwood), Affleck brings his all. We all know his close ties to Boston; he effectively uses the same strategy of letting the town and its people be as important as the script.

The caper aspect of the robberies was interesting, but watching our lead balance his life was just plain fascinating. The Town is cool, violent, tender, nuanced, and cast with unexpected and welcome faces: Victor Garber, Jon Hamm, Titus “Man in Black” Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Blake Lively (well against type), and Chris Cooper! I regret the ad campaign killing it at the box office and I urge you to check out this very clean and elegant film about wife-beater-clad roustabouts and hooligans.

MPAA Rating R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
Release date: 9/17/10
Time in minutes:  125
Director:  Ben Affleck
Studio: Warner Brothers