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The Town (2010)

September 27, 2010

8/10 Toonies

Man, that Ben Affleck’s sure come a long way since the days of Gigli, Daredevil and Jersey Girl. Way to go, dude. Keep it up.

The Town is about a group of seasoned bank robbers doing what they do best in Charlestown, Mass. – the bank-robbing capital of the USA and the place where they all grew up. So they take down a bank, then the leader of the gang ends up falling for the assistant manager that they take hostage, this complicates things, but since you apparently can’t help who you fall in love with, they keep on raising the stakes with the Feds hot on their asses.

So for all intents and purposes, this is Affleck’s show from top to bottom, and it’s about damn time he gave his career this much-needed boost in street cred because he wasn’t doing himself any favors there for a while. He wrote it, he directed it, he stars in it, and he probably made the posters, too. So let’s just break it down and see how he fared in each category and see where it takes us (I’d give the poster a B-).

Co-written by Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard, the script ain’t bad, but it’s also pretty familiar. The dialogue’s pretty solid throughout, there are some pretty cool lines to be said and the plot takes some pleasantly surprising turns towards the final Act. Then again, there’s a nagging feeling that I’ve seen this all before. The whole reverse-Stockholm syndrome thing where the robber falls for the hostage and he doesn’t care to break it off even though the relationship may very well compromise everything he’s been working towards, that’s nothing new. And that vibe kinda runs throughout where you can pretty much guess everyone’s fate as soon as you get an idea of their character and it shouldn’t be too hard to predict how the heists are gonna turn out as long as you’ve seen Heat (and you should totally see Heat). But that doesn’t mean it’s bad, because it’s not a carbon copy with Boston accents by any means, it’s just not exactly breaking any new ground either.

Although I felt like there was more potential to be tapped into with the whole “WELCOME TO THE BANK ROBBERY CAPITAL OF AMERICA” tag line that immediately makes this more interesting on a factual standpoint than other heist movies. It grazes the surface, but it should have gotten into a more cross-generational/family business type thing.

But as a director, Ben is very much on point. This thing has one majorly kickass opening heist scene that should immediately alleviate any fears of your wasting 12 bucks. It was a stroke of genius on his part to go back and forth between the live action video and the security footage while it was all going down, I don’t know why nobody’s thought of that before, but all the action scenes are totally effing wild and really do make the whole thing worthwhile. For a sophomore effort, I can imagine that helming an action movie based around bank robberies must be a high order, but he does a damn good job and moves the pacing right along. So a check-plus for you on that one, Benji.

And then there’s the acting, and you know what, he’s actually pretty good, I might even go so far as to call him cool. He’s got a pretty badass castof new school and old school hard knocks backing him up, but all the same, it’s nice to see Ben just kinda being himself and not overdoing it as Doug MacRay – the point man of the operation. And while Jeremy Renner is awfully solid as Doug’s trigger-happy right-hand man, James, and the same goes for Jon Hamm as the FBI agent tasked with bringing ’em down, this is also a sweet, sweet reminder of how freakin’ awesome Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite still are and always have been. They only get about five minutes of screen time each, but they deliver some hardcore speeches in those short spans of time that soundly trump anything that anyone else has to say in the whole damn movie.

Also was pretty impressed with Blake Lively and Rebecca Hall. Wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Lively in her role as the town skank, but she gets it done and does a good job doing it. Shame on me for never watching Gossip Girl, I suppose. And Rebecca Hall’s made a step up from Vicky Cristina Barcelona as Claire – the poor girl who winds up head-over-heels for the dude who could have put a bullet in her brain. Still don’t quite get that whole thing, but whatever, if there are women out there who actually send love letters to murderers on death row, I can let this one slide.

But for all its shortcomings, The Town is just a fun trip. Glad to see Ben at the top of his game because he’s apparently no joke when he puts his mind to it, and even though some of it might feel a little on the deja vu side, it’s a winning formula to work off of and there are enough moments that had me catching my breath to help me forget about the small stuff. Wish the tone had been a little bit more on the serious side and didn’t make everyone in the theater laugh so much or try to make us interested in a love story that we could probably have done without from the get-go, and I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, but that’s it, no more small complaints.

Good fake Boston accents, too. But that’s coming from a New Yorker, so I’ll leave the final verdict up to you Red Sox fans on that one.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2010 3:50 am

    Blake Lively rules! I first saw her in “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” where she totally impressed me. Can‘t wait to see this one. I might actually see it tonight!

    • September 27, 2010 12:52 pm

      Hope you dig it, but unfortunately, the title for “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” isn’t exactly doing it for me. But who knows, might need a good, estrogen-charged cry one of these days and that sounds like it’ll do the trick.

  2. September 27, 2010 7:23 am

    …this is getting some great reviews. I’m going to have to check it out!

    • September 27, 2010 12:52 pm

      I think they’re being a bit too generous over at RT, but it’s still pretty sweet. Enjoyed it more in the moment than I do two days later, but still a good time.

  3. September 27, 2010 9:40 am

    I saw this last weekend and when I walked out of the theater I couldn’t help but compare it to Heat, the all-time best action/drama. But I think Affleck held his ground. Some of the lovey dovey stuff I think could have been left in the editing room. All in all I got out of it what I expected, some top notch shoot-outs facilitated by guys with legit boston accents. Good review.

    • September 27, 2010 12:55 pm

      Sully, been a while, man. Think the Zeroes review was the last time you were around these parts. Anyway, welcome back and I entirely agree with everything you said. Affleck was pretty solid, the romance amounted to a whole lot of nothing, and the action scenes delivered. Glad you dug it, homey.

    • mplo permalink
      July 6, 2013 1:26 am

      I think that “Heat” was way better than “The Town”, which was clearly a rip-off of that film. “Heat”, imho, was much more believable than “The Town”, and so was the romance between the woman (who, btw, was way feistier than “The Town’s” Claire Keesey), and didn’t take up nearly as much of the story in “Heat”, as it did in “The Town”.

  4. Branden permalink
    September 27, 2010 10:28 am

    I liked some parts of the movie, but the love story between Doug and Claire killed the movie for me. I didn’t buy it for the most part.

    • September 27, 2010 12:57 pm

      Yeah, that really broke things up, didn’t it. Noticing it more after the fact for some reason.

      • Branden permalink
        September 27, 2010 1:08 pm

        I agree. The action sequences were intense. Fantastic. It’s just the interactions with Doug and Clarie were clunky. I’m not blaming Affleck or Hall, but it felt false.

      • September 29, 2010 11:37 am

        “False” is a good way to put it. Wasn’t really expecting a romantic plot line out of this movie to begin with, still kinda confused as to why it was there.

      • mplo permalink
        December 18, 2012 6:20 pm

        The love story between Doug and Claire took up much too much of “The Town.” I also thought that Ben Affleck’s too much of a pretty-boy to be a credible Doug MacRay, and that Claire was too much of a bubble-head, as was indicated by her kicking the alarm with her foot when her bank was robbed by Doug and his men at gunpoint, which resulted in mayhem and abduction, and the fact that Claire refused to sever all contacts with Doug and get the help from FBI Agt. Frawley after learning who he really and truly was.

      • January 15, 2013 5:52 pm

        Totally get it, totally understandable. But just one thing: do you think Claire was a bubble-head for kicking the silent alarm? That seemed like a pretty slick move to me.

    • mplo permalink
      December 18, 2012 6:15 pm

      “The love story between Doug and Claire killed the movie for me. I didn’t buy it.”

      Your opinion about the Doug-Claire romance scenes, imho, are absolutely spot-on! The love scenes between Doug and Claire seemed extremely immature…and out of place. They really didn’t belong.

  5. September 27, 2010 12:53 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it as much as you did Aiden (I gave it B+, 8/10 as well!). Certainly, the story feels familiar but it is so much more about how it is told than what the story is. Affleck is really showing great promise as a director and he also getting some cred back as an actor.

    • September 27, 2010 12:56 pm

      Right on, man. Yeah, Affleck’s really upped his game here. Almost forgot about him there but looking forward to his next thing.

  6. September 27, 2010 3:43 pm

    This just never got off the ground. Renner was stellar, Hamm was impressive but not noteworthy, Postelwaite had that good old Kobyashi charm, but aside that this was just a muddy and uninspired stereotypical film.

    I’m right there with you on the untapped potential of 300 robberies a year. What really killed it for me was the writing, and the forced love story. To each their own I guess.

    • September 29, 2010 11:48 am

      Yeah, it was pretty stereotypical, but while it all felt like second-hand news that I’d already heard in some ways, the writing wasn’t bad enough for me to really write it off completely. Good acting, Postelthwaite is such a badass, but it’s definitely got its flaws. Haven’t heard an unreasonable complaint about this movie from anyone yet. Man, considering the potential, this should have been a straight two hours of non-stop robberies. Fuck that love story shit.

      • mplo permalink
        December 18, 2012 6:07 pm

        I agree with you about the love story between Doug and Claire in “The Town”, Aiden R. I admittedly liked the beginning of “The Town”, with the aerial/on-the-ground shots of Boston and the Charlestown neighborhood, plus the opening heists, but The Town started to go downhill for me after the first car-chase through the North End. As much as I hate to admit it, “The Town” went from being okay to being just plain awful in a matter of minutes, thanks to the out-of-place, immature love story, and that flat ending, where Doug gets away and leaves Claire a whole bunch of bloodstained loot money, which she spend on the C-Town rink, instead of sensibly turning it over to the proper authorities, ruined this film for me, causing it, imho, to fall well short of its potential for being a good movie. The Alternate Ending, as sad as it was, made much more sense, imho.

      • January 15, 2013 5:54 pm

        Yeah, I wasn’t crazy about the ending either, but sorry to hear it lost you so early on. Always a bummer in any movie. Have you seen Argo yet? Did that fare any better?

    • mplo permalink
      December 18, 2012 6:11 pm

      Your points are well taken, Marc. Thanks.

  7. Pablo Chiste permalink
    September 27, 2010 5:37 pm

    This movie left me really disappointed. After Gone Baby Gone I Thought Affleck might be a great director, and perhaps he is, but his acting really brings The Town down.
    Here’s a link to my longer thoughts on The Town

  8. September 28, 2010 5:34 am

    For Renner to get an accent, instead of brining in a coach like Renner wanted to, Affleck took him to one of the Boston prisons and had him spend a day there talking to the inmates. Interesting stuff.

    As far as the relationship goes, the film only hints at what the book goes into detail about. I haven’t read the book, but have read different interpretations. I guess by the time that they do the opening heist, MacRay is already infatuated with Claire because he has been following her for weeks, since he does this to study for each and every one of their robberies. The actual heist hints at this (him not saying anything when he sees her push the silent alarm, calming her down to open the combination), and while the rest of the movie hints that MacRay goes to such lengths during preparation for each heist, I think explaining that further would’ve helped with the overall story. Though you start messing with tone once you start doing that…

    • September 29, 2010 11:51 am

      Interesting stuff, but I still feel like I’ve heard this whole romantic storyline before. Just should have taken it in a different direction altogether I think.

    • mplo permalink
      July 6, 2013 1:19 am

      So, what you’re sayingm Red, is that if Doug hadn’t been infatuated with Claire, he would’ve either nailed Claire himself for pulling that alarm, and/or let that crazy Jem do whatever he wanted to do to her, as Doug would’ve done to any other woman besides Claire. Am I correct here?

  9. Russell permalink
    September 28, 2010 8:02 am

    Loved paragraph 3 of the review… gonna cop the poster f’sho! ahaha

    • September 29, 2010 11:33 am

      haha. that affleck’s a renaissance man if there ever was one.

  10. xtina nono permalink
    September 28, 2010 3:44 pm

    aiden, come to charlestown and lisa, meghan and i will give you a tour of where they shot the film. we will also introduce you to our bank-robber friends. AND we will take you to the bar that’s featured in the movie. the two bank robbers who weren’t ben or jeremy are a local rapper and the skinny kid is a community college student in c-town. pete posetelehiethe’s sidekick, the guy with the irish flag on his arm, lives in c-town too! i have lots of other fact nuggets about the movie. i am pathetic. ok bye.

    • September 29, 2010 11:36 am

      hahaha. i wish i had bank-robber friends. and i would actually LOVE to go to that bar, seems like my kinda dive. man, c-town must be a small world. I GOTTA VISIT!

  11. September 28, 2010 9:16 pm

    You and Castor hit this right on the money. I loved this flick and you know what…made me an Affleck fan 😦 lol

    • September 29, 2010 9:12 am

      hahaha. don’t be sad, buddy. i think it happened to a lot of us. this calls for a group hug.

  12. September 29, 2010 1:02 pm

    I’m hoping that the cut material makes it to DVD. Maybe then the story will feel more thorough.

    • October 1, 2010 10:15 am

      would be interested in seeing it, but idk, still skeptical about the whole romantic plotline to begin with.

  13. mplo permalink
    January 13, 2013 2:16 pm

    “The Town”, overall, was more like a made-for-TV, feature-length, cartoon-esque soap opera than a regular movie. It’s one of these films that’s so bad that it’s good; While “The Town” is a piece of junk, it’s certainly good for evoking lively discussions.

    • January 14, 2013 4:51 pm

      Haha. Boy howdy, I didn’t think it was that bad, but glad to hear you “liked” it all the same. Does make for some good discussions though.

  14. mplo permalink
    July 6, 2013 1:16 am

    To Aiden R.:

    I wouldn’t call Claire’s setting off the alarm in the bank while the robbers were still there slick at all. Way beyond stupid and irresponsible is more like it, imho! She could’ve gotten everybody in that bank, including herself, seriously injured, taken hostage, or killed by acting so stupidly. Whether she panicked or was improperly trained to begin with doesn’t matter to me, either. As a bank manager, Claire really should’ve known better.

  15. mplo permalink
    April 21, 2014 1:56 am

    Toward the end of ‘The Town”, when Claire had the Feds come to her Charlestown apartment to set a trap for Doug, arrest him, have him tried and sent to prison for his crimes, Claire was merely pretending to work with the Feds to have Doug MacRay arrested, so right when the Feds were pretty much on the verge of nabbing Doug, she gave Doug the “Sunny Days” tip-off, warning Doug not to come to her house. Claire affectively circumvented and subverted the law, helping enable Doug MacRay to become a fugitive from justice before the law. Her lawyer helped her avoid any kind of punishment for her being an accessory to Doug’s crimes and for receiving stolen goods (Doug’s blood-stained loot money), which she spent on the renovation of the C-Town hockey rink, instead of sensibly turning the loot money (along with the tangerine and Doug’s farewell note to her.) over to the proper authorities.

    Having said all of the above, it’s clear that The Town provides the message that it’s okay to make total dupes out of law enforcement people by subverting the law, becoming an accessory to a career criiminal’s crimes and helping him become a fugitive, and that people don’t have to be held accountable for their actions and behaviors.


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