The ads that promote the new film The Town as “Heat meets The Departed” aren’t far off at all, and that’s very high praise. Ben Affleck shows that he is undoubtedly a director worth watching here. The action is invigorating, the drama compelling, and the performances authentic. His Gone Baby Gone was one thing, but the complex heist film The Town, a nickname for Charlestown, Massachusetts, enters into a new class of its own and may be a film worth checking for come awards season.
The Town follows Affleck’s Doug MacRay, a leader of a quartet of criminals; local “townies” where robbing runs in the family (literally). They figure, why stop at armored cars when you can knock off banks? Thus, we’re thrown into a heist in progress where bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall from Vicky Cristina Barcelona) is held hostage during the crew’s escape. Things become confusing as her hostage turned love interest turned the only person who can connect the gang to the crime is an unwilling pawn in the future safety of the clique.
While Doug may be falling in love, Jeremy Renner’s unplugged Jim carries menacing baggage with him into every scene. His 9-year stretch of hard time has hardened him, making him yearn for action and naturally question the motives of Doug. Things get deeper with the involvement of the FBI tracking the crew who continue to plot further thievery. Claire becomes a pricey bit of evidence that will have allegiances tested and the heart fighting the mind.
This is a tale we have seen before, in both the aforementioned films, and many others (like Mann’s Public Enemies). But what separates The Town is the grimy reality in the Boston locations and the three-dimensional relationships among the characters. There are times when perhaps the movie is too ambitious but despite a script quirk or two we stay riveted to our seats just the same. The ambitious climactic boost job is one you won’t want to miss.
Strong supporting performances can be found throughout, such as the revelation that is Blake Lively and the solid Jon Hamm. I know they are TV stars, but I am not a boob-tube watcher and have never seen either of them act before, which I guess puts me behind the curve here. Additionally, Renner (Hurt Locker) again proves he is an actor on the rise and small roles from Pete Postlewaite and Chris Cooper also resonate.
By now, Ben Affleck should truly be a hero in his hometown of Boston. He has shed light on the working class and brought his love for the area to the big screen in grand fashion again. The only thing left to ponder at this juncture, is whether The Town belongs in the Oscar race for 2010. That discussion is sure to be right around the corner or at the least, lurking somewhere in your town.