This flick proves Ben Affleck is one smooth criminal.
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
There is a portion of Boston, the Charlestown area, that is known as a capital of sorts for criminal activity, so much so that, for instance, bank robbery is an occupation, an artisan trade handed down from father to son. This seems to go deeper than our societal and cultural associations with gang and mob life. To this community, a life of crime is a vocation.
And The Town takes us inside a crew, led by Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), a former professional hockey draft pick who missed his opportunity to escape from Charlestown and accepted his place in the family trade. His father Stephen (Chris Cooper) resides upstate in a maximum-security facility serving several life-terms for murder and robbery. His hot-headed best friend James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) charges through their planned heists like a hollow-point bullet head, ready to explode and leave shards in friend and foe alike.
On the job that kicks the proceedings off, Coughlin beats a bank worker so badly that he grabs another bank employee (Rebecca Hall) in the hopes of providing additional cover, another lead that the cops will have to waste time exploring while the boys roam scot-free, but it turns out that the hostage lives in the neighborhood and they have to keep tabs on her to make sure she doesn’t need to be silenced.
Doug takes on the assignment to follow her and quickly falls for her. It is a pure movie contrivance, but the way it plays out is anything but routine thanks to a thoroughly lived-in performance from Affleck that ups the stakes both for the film and his career as an actor-director. As he chats with Hall’s Claire, Affleck lets us see, in a series of fleeting expressions, the quicksilver shifts in his assessment of her. He goes from preparing to kill her to deep longing in mere moments and we understand that in her, he discovers a second opportunity to get out of this life.
And that is the focus of The Town. It is the story of one man’s decision to leave the criminal world behind, for love and something far greater, his own redemption. We’ve seen it all before. Heat was all about the things that men must to do prove themselves, to assert their philosophical codes, to be top dogs. Of course, sticking close to its Charlestown roots, The Town scales back all of that thematic existential angst. It is Heat with a blue collar and swirling Nor’eastern accents. It is about a man who wants to be free, but who comes to realize the price of freedom.
There’s not a weak performance in the lot, which is not exactly surprising considering the collection of talent. Still, Blake Lively, known for her girlish good looks, announces loudly and proudly that she deserves a second look based on her raw, completely unexpected Amy Ryan-esque turn. This young baby ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, so watch out.
The same could be said of Affleck. Gone Baby Gone was a breakout job for a guy everyone knew was smart and good looking, but who had left many wondering if he would ever be able to catch up with his good buddy Matt Damon. With The Town, Affleck lets us know that he’s a truly multi-dimensional threat. Co-writing, acting, directing. Is there any job in The Town that he can’t do, and do well? I don’t think so.
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