The Town

Posted by sean On December - 20 - 2010

Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm have a lovely conversation about the Red Sox in an interrogation room.

Ben Affleck fooled us all. For the past decade, we’ve all made fun of his career choices after his critical success on Good Will Hunting, but he was just biding his time and learning how to craft a great film. With his second directorial outing after Gone Baby Gone, Affleck delivers a strong heist film in The Town, taking familiar tropes from the genre and injecting them with a heavy dose of adrenaline and carrying them out with amazing performances.

Affleck, pulling double-duty behind and in front of the camera, plays Doug MacRay, the leader of a band of thieves from Charlestown, an area in Boston riddled with poverty and armed robberies. He decides to turn his life around after falling for a bank manager, Claire Keesey, (Rebecca Hall) who he and his disguised crew took hostage during a job and then released. When his crew suspects that Claire can identify them to the FBI, Affleck keeps you drawn in not just with the action but also the quieter moments. Driven by the question of whether or not Claire will learn the truth, MacRay befriends her to assess the situation but finds himself caught up with her vulnerability and innocence. The tension thickens in one scene when the two have lunch and MacRay’s trigger-happy friend (played by Jeremy Renner) shows up. You feel MacRay’s anxiety increase due to his friend’s volatile nature and his tattoo that Claire could recognize from the crime. In other parts, Affleck uses what he inherited from the directors he’s worked with to craft gripping scenes like shootouts and car chases through the labyrinth alleys of Boston. Films like Takers or the Bourne movies use choppy editing and the shaky cam to the point of creating blurs, but Affleck keeps the camera tight on the action without distorting the image with epileptic shaking to look more intense.

In front of the camera, Affleck pulls off a great portrayal as MacRay, a character conflicted with loyalties and personal issues. Even though he’s a criminal, his charm and rough upbringing allow you to understand his situation. Rebecca Hall carries a naive disposition as Claire while being deeply traumatized by her hostage experience, delivering both very well. Her own personality mixed with Affleck’s feels genuine and you honestly want things to work out for them. Backing up Affleck as his best friend, Jeremy Renner plays James Coughlin, matching the level of talent he displayed in The Hurt Locker. He’s dangerous, unpredictable, and always itching to pull the trigger on someone, and you’re never at ease when he’s onscreen even when he’s unarmed. Breathing down the their necks is FBI agent Adam Frawley, played by Jon Hamm, who brings much of his Don Draper persona with a no-bullshit prowess in hunting down the thieves. With the law backing him up, Hamm is just as ruthless and unswerving as the criminals by using underhanded tactics in his pursuit. He’s not a corrupt cop, but when juxtaposed with Affleck’s Doug, Hamm’s character is not someone you empathize with because of his lack of depth. In fact, nothing is given to Hamm, leaving him as more of a force of justice than a complex character audiences can connect with.

In our rating of One Bourbon, one liquor, and one beer, The Town is an ice cold lager with a shot of whiskey for its amazing cast and action, and as Affleck’s second time in the director’s chair, it shows that he knows what goes into a film and can make it a gripping experience.

- Sean

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