Town, The (2010)

Director:  Ben Affleck
Cast:  Ben AffleckRebecca HallJon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively
Plot:  As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down.

Genre:  Crime / Drama / Thriller
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Supporting Actor.
Runtime:  125min
Rating:  M18 for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.


I react with some measure of disappointment to Ben Affleck’s newest feature, The Town.  Starring himself, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, 2009), and Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008), this crime-heist thriller is set in Charlestown, Boston, where every other day there seems to be an armed robbery happening. 

Produced by Graham King, who won the Best Picture Oscar for Scorsese’s The Departed (2006), which is also set in Boston, The Town is a generic crime-thriller that offers nothing more than two hours of average entertainment.

The film follows Affleck’s character, Doug , as he faces a turning point in his life.  He leads a gang of masked armed robbers but wants to quit a life of crime and change for good.  His dream of a better future is spurred on by a coincidental romance with Claire (Hall), who was an unharmed victim (and a key witness) of one of his heist schemes. 

To complicate things, Claire does not know that Doug was involved in that heist.  Worse, his partner-in-crime, James (Renner), a volatile, Joe Pesci-like madman, discovers their relationship and threatens to kill her.  There is a scene with these three characters together, sitting around a table at an outdoor cafĂ©. This is perhaps the only moment in the film that causes a significant degree of uneasiness and tension in the viewer. 

Sad to say, much of the entire film does not live up to its “thriller” tag.  As a crime-thriller, it is a borderline passable entry.  That is not good enough for Affleck, whose debut directing effort Gone Baby Gone (2007) has shown that he is capable of making a noteworthy thriller.

The Town has reasonably well-executed action sequences, but they amount to nothing if the story is one-dimensional, and the characters underdeveloped.  The romance between Doug and Claire, which I feel to be the film’s central narrative thread, is clearly lacking in development, thus when the film closes with their separation, and ends with the line “…see you again, this side or the other”, it feels unconvincing.

The Town’s standout performance is credited to Renner.  He steals the screen every time he appears, but his characterization is limited to the stereotypical caricature of a bad-ass gangster.  Nevertheless, Renner’s performance helps to engage the viewer whenever the story fails to do so.  As for Affleck’s performance, there is no surprise in store for us.  He is weak in acting and should stick to directing instead.  But hey, I am starting to have doubts about his directing too.


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