Don’t by fooled by all the noise and commotion of The Town’s impressive and dynamic opening heist sequence. This film isn’t really a heist movie. The dirty work is entertaining, but The Town is more than that.
The romance between Boston bank robber Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) is heart-warming — maybe even to the point of cliché — but again, The Town is more than that.
Is it a police procedural? It’s more than that, too.
The Town attempts to be many genres at once. In certain ways, the film comes close to failure, at times wallowing down in predictable conflicts and unsteady dialogue. But at the end of its 125 minutes, The Town walks away a success because of its honesty of spirit and a message that is greater than the sum of its parts.
wThe Town follows MacRay along with James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) and the rest of their crew as they take on the banks and armored vehicles of Charlestown, Mass. The film begins as the group decides to rob a Cambridge Bank branch, but things go slightly awry when bank manager Keesey successfully flips the silent alarm. Coughlin angrily takes her hostage, but the team frees her after they escape.
Ironically, this incident leads to MacRay’s and Keesey’s meeting, when MacRay goes to confront Keesey about not speaking to law enforcement. In time, Keesey inspires MacRay to want out of the criminal lifestyle fueled by life in Charlestown, which happens to be the unofficial bank robbery capital of the United States.
No one, including Coughlin (MacRay’s unofficial “brother”) seems to support MacRay’s decision to leave Charlestown. His boss Fergus Colm (Peter Postlethwaite) threatens him, and the last thing FBI special agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) wants is for MacRay to skip away to happier, peaceful days.
This is the set-up for the film that eventually leads up to the classic (but overdone) “one last job” scenario, where there is, as the name suggests, just one last heist before the main character can get out of the game for good. If The Town had followed this template, the movie would have been destined to live out its days in a crowded Blockbuster action rack.
But it is not simply another mediocre heist flick, largely because of Ben Affleck’s solid directing. It’s fair to say that with his recent accomplishments, Gigli and the J-Lo days should be erased from the history books. The Town solidifies the fact that Affleck’s previous work, Gone Baby Gone, was by no means a fluke.
To top it off, Affleck depicts Charlestown in all its dysfunctional, blue-collar glory, crafting a sense of setting that blankets the film in a palpable authenticity.
Delivering smart dialogue is a cast that deserves much praise. Renner is particularly intriguing as the arrogant, loose cannon Coughlin, whose unpredictable relationship with Doug MacRay keeps the viewers on their heels.
But the film isn’t perfect. Some corny moments, such as the relationship between MacRay and Keesey, seem to be conventional methods of resolution. The strong writing is also marred by long monologues that don’t make sense when the character issues revealed in them are not truly addressed as the film progresses.
Are these flaws deal-breakers when it comes to appreciating The Town as a whole? Probably not. Such flaws, however, serve as great contrasts to all that the film gets right, which is plenty. In the end, The Town succeeds by blending various genres to create a film that has a clear position on development and morality without beating a message over viewers’ heads.