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Movie Review: The Town (2010)

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Ben Affleck’s admirable effort in The Town won’t matter to those that, “just don’t like his face.” That’s difficult to overcome for an actor, and Affleck’s additional roles as director and co-writer for the film won’t quell the prejudiced army that has dogged his career. But Affleck’s excellent work on The Town may change some opinions.

The Town Ben AffleckThe Town is about a crew who robs banks and armoured trucks. Such is family tradition in Charlestown we are told. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) leads the crew while James (Jem) Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) acts as his second in command. They rob a bank, take a beautiful woman (Rebecca Hall) hostage, then she is released. Later, Doug starts dating her. Problems ensue.

Someone told Ben Affleck that 90% of directing is casting. Perhaps that’s why the performances in The Town are so remarkable. Chris Cooper as Doug’s Father is so good he has his own theme music – and why shouldn’t he? It’s only one scene in the film but he has to convey oceans below the surface of the dialogue. Jeremy Renner’s aggression as Jem is almost comical in its intensity. Jem reacts to the chance of violence like an erection; all he wants to do is act on his constant desire.

The Town Jeremey Renner
Perhaps it is Ben’s charm that helps the dialogue paint pictures and be funny at the same time. If you’ve seen Pearl Harbour, Good Will Hunting, Hollywoodland, Chasing Lanes, and Gone Baby Gone the perception of his ability is muddled. He told Renner during casing he wasn’t sure he could manage three roles for the film. But The Town needs Affleck’s fondness for Boston. The focus on Boston monuments and the streets of Charlestown are as prevalent as the familial touch between all the characters.

While there is nothing particularly surprising about the plot points of The Town the film is oddly riveting. It’s the unremarkable set pieces that help make some scenes more gripping. For example, a car chase in a family van makes sense as a conspicuous getaway vehicle, and thematically we are much more drawn to root for our bad guys when they struggle to escape several police cars in narrow streets in a caravan.

Hollywood caters to the “book by its cover” mentality. Chris Cooper is too old. Blake Lively is TV-caliber. Ben Affleck is too dumb. But they’ll all dazzle and surprise you if you would give The Town a chance.

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  • wallyintouch

    Movie was stupid, plot has been waaaaayyyyyy over done again & again ad infinitum. It was nothing but a copy of The Takers using different actors.

    • mplo

      I agree, wallyintouch. “The Town” not only failed to live up to all the hype that it was given, but it also failed to live up to its potential for being a really good, or perhaps even a great film for the reasons that I listed above, and perhaps more.

      Claire Keesey supposedly had no clue as to who Doug MacRay really was or what he was really up to, but, imho, a smarter, more streetwise woman than Claire would’ve had Doug MacRay pegged pretty much from the get-go. The conversations that took place on the first two dates between Claire and Doug, especially on the second date, when Doug acts like a big know-it-all and schpeils off to Claire at length about his “knowledge” about how the criminal justice system at large presumably works, and Doug’s response to Claire’s challenging him with “You’re quite the expert”, and Doug’s “Not really. I watch a lot of TV” response to Claire’s challenge, imho, were red flags that should’ve provided Claire with a hint about who Doug really and truly was.

  • ohv

    I saw the The Town today and it was excellent. The way the characters were potrayed, you felt sorry for them, and hated the good guys. Ben looked hot as ever and Blake Lively was awesome.

    • mplo

      I didn’t feel sorry for Doug MacRay and his men at all, ohv. I was rooting for the FBI and the other law enforcement people the whole time and really wanted Doug and his men to be caught, tried, charged with and jailed for their crimes for a good, long hard term.

      Claire, imho, should’ve been made to keep her big, fat trap shut, not answer any of Doug MacRay’s calls, and let FBI Agt. Frawley and the Feds do their assigned job of bringing Doug MacRay to justice and prison for his crimes, instead of helping a dangerous, armed felon who’d given her a ton of grief and was wanted by the law, to go free.

      I also might add that if there was anybody I felt sorry for in “The Town”, it was Krista (though I disliked her sordid, drugged-out lifestyle and low moral compass (sleeping around with too many men.), because she had fewer choices than Claire, having grown up with Doug and Jem her whole life, and taking constant abuse and exploitation from them. I was sorry for her young daughter, Shyne, who was innocent, and caught up in all this garbage.

  • Deanne

    Awesome movie!
    Enjoyed your article but I take exception to the last paragraph point. I got the point you were making only you shouldn’t have used Ben Affleck to make it. Some Could say Chris Cooper is too old. Some Could say Blake Lively is too TV. No One could say Ben Affleck is anywhere close to being dumb, no one who has ever heard him speak as himself that is. Otherwise, point taken and good job!

    • mplo

      Frankly, I think that, as a whole, “The Town”, as a movie, really was too TV-like, especially because there were so many grade-B TV actors/actresses who played in this film.

  • http://2dreviews.ca 2dreviews

    Thanks so much for the comment Deanne, and reading.

    It’s probably just my circle of friends but it seems the general opinion of Ben Affleck is that he’s the same one portrayed in Family Guy. I’d be happy to link you the scene

  • Christopher J

    “Jem reacts to the chance of violence like an erection.” Along with a few other reviewers who state that”Jem has no other motive then to torment and murder. Wow…if this is your interpretation of Jem,you completely don´t get his core.His violence comes from paranoia(Convinced the bank manager hit the alarm),loyalty and love(killing a guy to save Dougs life)and a calm,quick decision (doug sleeping on the job gave Jem no other option then to shoot the guard.Had he not,they´d all been caught. Jem is a bit deranged,has no fuse and is capable of anything if he gets cornered.Not the same.And he was unconditionally loyal and in the end,his pathos comes across as more sympathetic then Doug,who just oozes goodness and moral conviction when all his actions say otherwise.A selfish guy. I´m at least glad the academy recognized the years best performance,tied with Bales.

    • mplo

      “Doug just oozes goodness and moral convictions, when all his actions say otherwise.”

      You’re absolutely spot-on with this, Christopher J! Doug acted out of pure selfishness, and was just interested in avoiding another prison sentence, which he should’ve served. I hope that the FBI eventually found him in Florida, had him tried, charge with, and jailed for his crimes for a long, hard term in a Federal penitentiary.

  • 2d

    I don’t know about you but, many of my erections are based in paranoia, loyalty, and love :)

    I’d love to go back and re-watch the film looking at Jem from your perspective. It’s a much more full outlook on the character than I present.

    A lot of the time I read Jem’s paranoia as completely fabricated as excuses to tell others why he had to get violent.

    But I prefer your take. Do you blog about movies anywhere? I’d love to read more

  • mplo

    I enjoyed the beginning of “The Town”, with the aerial shots of Charlestown and the opening bank heist, but it went from being okay to just plain bad in a matter of minutes.

    I also might add that I deeply resent the messages that The Town conveys to me; that it’s okay to commit violent crimes and endanger people’s lives and safety if they can get away with it, and to be an accessory it (as Claire was). Another troubling message, imo, is the message that relationships that arise from the “Lima” Syndrome, which is the reverse of the Stockholm Syndrome, are normal and healthy, when in fact, they’re not, especially because the captor, in this case, who was a professional criminal and wanted fugitive, came across as a sweet guy who managed to charmingly manipulate a poor, scared bank manager that he and his men robbed and kidnapped at gunpoint, into not talking to the Feds, or else.