Ben Affleck’s The Town is an exciting, heart stopping thrill ride that will amaze you minute after minute. Now that is a lot of hyperbole to start off a review but that much had to be said. Now that that’s out of the way, The Town is a gritty look inside a small working class neighborhood in Boston. It’s also a great effort from an actor turned director in Ben Affleck that is the real deal. To me, Affleck can now be considered a good actor/director with the likes of George Clooney, Clint Eastwood and Sydney Pollack. The Town is more than solid, it’s highly exceptional with wonderful performances from Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner.
Starting off with high energy, The Town follows four men dressed in black cloaks and skull masks putting together the final touches of a bank heist. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is the leader of this rough neck crew and his best friend Jem (Jeremy Renner) is the second in command. The gang is a hard hitting unit, working together to get your money. Intercut with silent security camera footage, the opening scene of The Town reminds me of GÃ¶tz Speilmann’s Revanche. A poetic and brutish dance, well choreographed and executed. During the heist, they take a hostage, the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall). After the incident she is questioned and consoled by F.B.I. Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm). To hinge their bets upon releasing her they take her driver’s license and realize she lives for blocks away from them in the neighborhood called ‘Charlestown’. To make sure she is on the level, Doug follows her. And after an interaction begins to develop feelings for Claire.
The weakest element of the movie is the romance. It is basic and seemed to only to be positioned to further the plot, that much is true. There’s really not much to their on screen chemistry than playful flirtations and whimsical moments. Remarkably though, this never comes off as cheesy and or even ‘eye roll’ worthy, Hall and Affleck save that with their charms. But still I felt this element could have been more focused and true. Especially since this film seems to be an exercise in intense relationships between its characters.
The Town is a heist film, first and foremost, and for that to work the heist themselves must be elaborate, gripping and exciting. The sense of danger is created so well, you have a feeling that anything can go wrong at any time. Full of car chases that remind me of the best of John Frankenheimer, it feels like Affleck took a lot of notes when making Reindeer Games. Well constructed and paced, it’s amazing that more movies in Hollywood are not made this strongly. The act break up by heist is a time tested structural formula and is held true here, but what Affleck does so interestingly is he amps up the action and excitement scene after scene.
Affleck is really good at establishing tone and creating tension so quickly in this film. He is consistent with this tone and it is achieved scene after scene. We get a sense of how desperate for money these characters are and how seemingly stuck they are in their situations. Smartly, the tone of working class, blue collared Boston is used. Even with thousands of dollars, these characters still live their lives as if they had no money and are proud to be working, living paycheck to paycheck.
The Town simply works on most what it tries to achieve and is simply worth watching. This is a very strong effort from a new filmmaker and delivers great performances from its actors. From Jeremy Renner’s demented and stark Jem to Jon Hamm’s charmingly presistent F.B.I. Agent Frawley, there is something here for everyone. Affleck does a wonderful job making The Town so broad and accessible but at the same time gripping and enthralling not to alienate. But at the end of the day, The Town is simply an exciting ride. Buy a ticket!