I went to see The Town because I love Boston, Ben, and the critical buzz. Ben Affleck is back and he’s the bad boy director of this crime/thriller set in mean streets of Charlestown, Massachusetts, a town with the reputation of having the most bank robberies in the country.
We (the audience) become partners in crime swaying to the nonstop action, and an edge-of-seat crime wave. The Town is adapted from the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, the screenplay written by Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, and Aaron Stockard. The Town reflects Ben Affleck’s finest hour so far. Affleck is no stranger to directing. This is his fourth and best effort since Gone Baby Gone. This time we find him behind the camera and also in front of it.
Like father like son, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is understudy to his father and a man called “The Florist.” Doug is the son of lifer Stephen MacRay (Chris Cooper). Cooper delivers just one of many unforgettable performances by instantly recognizable faces in The Town. Doug and Stephen are family, and we are led to believe that Doug wants to participate in the family business. However, he is a puppet. ‘Fergie’ Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), AKA “the Florist,” is town wizard who prunes flowers by day and plans bank jobs by night. Dad can only advise son through a phone and Plexiglas. Doug is on his own and at the mercy of Fergie. Unstoppable, the gang pulls off one masked bank robbery after another. While family connections and long-time associations tether the group, it is Doug’s childhood friend James Coughlin, aka Jem (Jeremy Renner), who pulls Doug in an opposite direction as he begins to lean toward the nearest exit.
The Town focuses on one particular heist which changes everyone involved including the hostage. This routine but well-planned daylight bank job spirals out of control and requires a hostage. Doug spots good-looking teller Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). He grabs her and they are off in the van where she is blindfolded and taken to the ocean and told to walk until she feels water. She lives, but Doug is bothered by her when he discovers she has left her wallet behind. Claire, poor girl, gets the worse job in the gang, sleeping with the enemy – Doug MacRay.
Enter Agent Adam. The band of thieves and unwitting Claire meet their match when the local FBI leaves a calling card in the person of tough guy FBI S.A. Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm – Don Draper from Mad Men). Adam tracks Doug to his lair. He and Claire lay in wait and plan a big surprise for the agents. I think Hamm is a brilliant casting choice. He’s got the goods on Doug and the right stuff to get his man. The kick: watching the two men shadow box through Claire Keesey – who wins?
The chase is on! We follow Agent Adam, the wallet, and Doug’s heart to its natural conclusion. Doug finds love as cure-all, but life is not that simple because guilt is also chasing this aging criminal. We watch him stumble over his own self-loathing. This once-Olympic hopeful is now staring deep into the soulless gap and must ‘fess up or risk loss of Claire. The tension is palpable as Doug the bank robber seeks a mask-free makeover. Can he forge a new life and forget The Town and his roots in time? Or is it just too late? That is the question. And you will enjoy discovering the answer in this critic’s choice, seamless direction, and season-best by big, bad Ben.
Run time 123 minutes.
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