Ben Affleck reveals his true calling sitting down, for a second time, in the director’s chair. He also co-wrote and starred in this adaptation from Chuck Hogan’s novel, “Prince of Thieves”.
On the surface, The Town appears to be a heist movie.
Okay, it is. However, I can assure you, that’s not all. The film follows Doug MacRay (Affleck) and his attempts at protecting his best friend (and more-or-less brother) James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) and Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) from each other and the FBI.
Claire was taken hostage during the first heist, and released shortly afterward. It turns out that she lives in the thieves’ neighborhood. Jem wants to “take care of it,” but Doug does so instead. Seeing the effects of their having taken her hostage, Doug spends time getting to know her, falling in love. All the while, Jem shames Doug into robbing some armored trucks, despite the FBI closing in on them.
The film opens with Doug explaining, to Jem and their crew, the plan for their bank heist. They hop out of their van, walk into the bank and the first of four robberies begins. This is the only time we really hear a plan any of the heists. Sure, some were quicker than others and probably did not need as much prep work. But Affleck’s character, the mastermind behind their jobs, always knows everything about the key individuals they are going to rob. The fact that we never hear the plan beforehand is probably so we’ll be just as shocked at the twists and turns as the cops chasing the thieves.
The absence of the planning portion of the robberies sets it apart from many of the heist movies of the past. Ocean’s Eleven spent much of the time showing the setup for their series of cons, while leaving out certain information to shock us in the end. Hell, the first quarter of that film is just finding the crew. The Town opens with Doug’s partners already found and established.
Sure, Doug and Jem rob banks and armored trucks, but much of the film deals with these characters in conflict between heists. It’s not often that we get a real back-story for the thieves in these movies, let alone their home life.
Chris Cooper plays Stephen MacRay, Doug’s imprisoned father. What an amazing actor! I wish he was in more movies; he’s unbelievably talented. Cooper has one scene in the film, and he shines more than most of the main cast.
Peter Postlethwaite even has a small part in the film as Fergie the Florist. He’s a crime boss in town, boasting an ability to destroy peoples’ lives with the cashier as his only partner. He’s rather creepy as he calmly goads and threatens Doug. Fergie might be the one obtaining all the information about the people being robbed, but it’s never fully explained. That could be a writing error, but who knows.
The overall writing is great, though. I’m a huge fan of dialogue, and this film had plenty of moments where I wished I had written down the words first. With the heavy Boston accent of some characters, it can be difficult to understand everything being said. I’ve never seen Renner use any accent in his films, but he seemed to do it here with ease. He’s an amazing actor, and has one of the best parts of this movie. It’s not surprising he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Unfortunately, the worst part of the movie is Blake Lively’s performance as Krista Coughlin, Jem’s sister. She plays a drug-addicted alcoholic who used to date Doug. Not only is her overall acting is over-the-top, but she provides one of the worst Bostonian accents I’ve ever heard. She may be incredibly beautiful, but, despite incorrect popular opinion, there’s more to acting than looks. Overall, Lively’s role in the film seems rather unnecessary.
Thankfully, these characters are not flat – also aren’t entirely rounded out. These semi-rounded individuals emit a human emotion that adds more depth to the film, making it slightly more enjoyable and worthwhile.
Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley provide a soundtrack that blends quietly into the background of the film. It’s so subtle at times, that if you don’t pay attention you might miss it.
For a movie about the behind-the-scenes lives and friendships of bank robbers, have a seat and enjoy a viewing of The Town.
4 out of 5 stars