You know people get up everyday, tell themselves something's gonna change their lives.
The Town is Charlestown, Boston, a place where crime is a way of life. Following a bank robbery, professional thief Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) has to keep a watch on bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) because after using her as hostage leverage during escape from the heist, she is the only witness who could possibly identify his gang. But once the two meet they start to fall for each other, forcing MacRay to re-evaluate his life in Charlestown. It's a re-evaluation that will upset a lot of people close to him and the gangster boss who hires him, and all this at a time when FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is closing in on the gang.
One of the most startling things about Ben Affleck's second film as director is that even with it's conventional plot, and formulaic characters, it's still an exhilarating and fresh picture. With Affleck comfortable in his Boston surroundings, it's evident that he and the team went for authenticity, something which in the main they achieve. Sure there's the odd implausible moments, they are-like it or not-cops and robbers staples, but The Town is not your standard run of the mill actioner. It's is, for want of pigeon holing, a modern day noir, resplendent with bleak mood and well oiled characters. Based on Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves, The Town follows the formula of a rotten town with rotten people doing their best or worst to live and get by. Into the pot comes the bad guy who meets a good woman who wants to leave his crappy life and crappy home behind. So far so well trodden path, then, but this is not a giant gangland operation, like, say, The Departed or The Godfather et al, this is a small neighbourhood setting, with a small group of everyday dressed young men. It's one of the reasons why Affleck's film feels authentic.
Helping to exude the naturalistic and human feel of the drama is that Affleck doesn't overdo his action sections, yet they are terrific sections for sure. This is not Tony Scott/Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer action for popcorn excess. From the electric kick-start of the first heist, to the mid-section car chase-and to the knock out coup de grāce set in motion at Red Sox Stadium, Affleck shows great skill as a crafter of action: aided superbly by Dylan Tichenor's energised editing. Other violence is swift and to the point, the director knowing not to dwell too long on vicious passages in the narrative, thus keeping his characters free of caricatures. Mind, he is thankful to the great cast assembled for his picture, for this is very much an actors piece. Well written without flabby periods of talk for talk sake, The Town provides proper drama for proper actors; and that includes the director himself.
Jeremy Renner is quickly turning into the go to guy for edginess, here as MacRay's best pal, Jem, he deals out a frightening loose cannon turn. Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite have small roles, but both impact hard on proceedings, both memorable and both adding a touch of classy know how. Hamm arguably has the hardest role, for as FBI Agent Frawley he has to carry on his own the other plot thread that is the investigation. Not just that, but the film lends itself to one which dares you to root for the bad guys, it's a tough ask of the Mad Men actor but he nails it, with one two-fold scene in a bar, as he grills MacRay's ex , Krista (Blake Lively heartfelt and believable), particularly offering a glimpse of what a good actor he can be. Ultimately the main load has to be carried by Affleck and Hall as the central doomed lovers. There is death and misery every where in Charlestown; and for the protagonists of the story, including Doug & Claire. Their relationship offers hope, a beacon of hope in a murky world, but it's a relationship founded on black secrets and built around falsehoods. That Affleck & Hall draw us in with charm and acting gravitas further serves notice as to why The Town is top draw stuff.
Hardships, hard decisions and hard characters come alive in The Town, a great modern day drama that's showing Gone Baby Gone was no fluke, this lad Affleck really is some director. 9/10