The Town Review
The Town is being touted as a great crime thriller involving themes of love, violence and redemption, but more accurately, it is the resuscitation of Ben Affleck’s film career.
Remember that dip in time when Gigli was the socially-accepted equivalent of walking around with a “kick-me” sign? Or when Bennifer was akin to Hollywood’s modern-day Godzilla? Or how about that cheesy “Jenny From the Block” video featuring a slick-haired Affleck nuzzling J-Lo’s bounteous booty? Yeah, it appeared that Affleck’s career was headed for the mortuary and critics were getting ready to close the casket.
But then something unexpected happened: an impressive directorial debut called “Gone Baby Gone” turned all the criticisms into compliments. The man once endlessly mocked was suddenly making way for all the positive buzz surrounding his acclaimed film. Still, many called it luck and doubted he could replicate that initial success.
Well, “Doubters be damned” thought Affleck, for he’s unleashed a taut thrill ride called “The Town”, which is currently being hailed as his sophomore success story. It wouldn’t be far-fetched then, to predict that Affleck has a promising directorial career ahead of him as he solidifies his reputation for creating smart and sentimental stories, set in Boston’s least glamorous parts. This time around, he explores Charlestown, notorious for having the most bank robberies, kidnappings and carjackings per capita. Here, crime is like an honorary key passed down from father to son.
The Town examines these family crime lineages, explores a love story and the struggles to overcome ones’ life circumstances. Affleck casts himself as the central protagonist, Doug MacRay, who’s caught between reluctantly fulfilling his criminal duties at the behest of an unassumingly menacing crime boss and running away to start a new life with the woman he unexpectedly falls for. The woman, Claire Keesey, is the wild card in the story. Hers was the latest bank to be robbed, unbeknownst to her, by MacRay and his cronies.
Of course, The Town is nowhere as remarkable as Gone Baby Gone, or other crime dramas like The Departed, but it is well-played, smartly-acted, intense and handsomely directed by a quite handsome Affleck.
I’m not a big crime/action/violence fan, but Affleck creates a narrative so absorbing, those necessities are bearable. His characters are given a canvas to display their motives, their inner flames burning through their dialogue – creating players you’re supposed to hate, but come to care about regardless of where your morality lies. This is why you’re left holding your breath during those pivotal climactic moments, or why your heart is racing when it appears your anti-heros are just at the brink of their survival. You grip on tightly until the very end, with a serious emotional investment in the fate of the characters. One such character is played by Jeremy Renner, of “The Hurt Locker” fame, who occupies the standout role of Jem, MacRay’s long time friend and crime confidante. He’s somewhat of a loose cannon, a man whose world seems to revolve solely around bank heists, guns and getaways. Affleck may have made himself the main character, but Renner is the real star of this movie. A definite strong-point of the production is the ensemble, the actors who bring this story to life. Kudos to the casting department.
As per the rest of the film itself, I was wholly absorbed for almost the entire thing and then it happened – I was released from my trance. The credits rolled, the lights came on, the audience raced to the exit, and my conscience re-awakened to real life with a semi-startled “What – was that it?” as I tried to rationalize the movie’s strong build up and smooth execution with the sudden, unsatisfying conclusion.
Where I thought Affleck might’ve been a genius, he only turned out to be a really good story-teller with an admirable ability to inject heart and depth into a crime saga so cold, amid streets so bleak, in a town left behind, insulated by its own disgraceful legacy. Genius or not, he’s certainly come a long way since “Jenny From the Block”, and where Hollywood is concerned, it looks like he’s getting ready to run that town.