THE TOWN. Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Blake Lively. Directed by Ben Affleck. Rated MA 15+ Restricted (Strong violence and coarse language). 125 min.
This film is based on Chuck Hogan’s “The Prince of Thieves” and tells the story of a group of bank robbers, led by Dough MacRay (Ben Affleck). They rob banks by wearing elaborate disguises.
The film begins with a bank heist in Charlestown, Boston, which the film tells us, is the bank robbery capital of the US and is the clue to the film’s title. One of their heists goes wrong, causing Doug and his fellow bank robber, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), who wear facial masks, to take the bank’s manager, Claire (Rebbeca Hall), as a hostage. They let her go, hoping she will not identify them, but they know she will. Doug agrees to go looking for her to fix the problem, and he knows where to find her with the help of Claire’s driving licence which they have. Attracted to her in the robbery, and later in a Laundromat, Doug falls for Claire in a serious way. They date and form a loving relationship. Soon, the police, led by FBI agent, Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm), are chasing Doug and his associates. Claire eventually learns the true identity of the man, who took her hostage, and she has to make a decision between continuing her relationship with him, or giving him up and accepting that justice has to be done.
Doug has to make a choice between loyalty to Claire and to his friends, and what might be best for his survival. Claire is equally conflicted but in a different way. Things are complicated additionally by the fact that Claire may have had a previous relationship with Frawley, and now she is harbouring a known criminal, who faces a lifetime behind bars. For most of the movie, we know what Claire doesn’t know, and genuine tension results from the various conflicts that inevitably unfold.
This is a well-directed thriller with a great group of actors in it. Most of the characters are likeable, though the language throughout the film is very rough. We know who they are, and what they do, and the film manages to inject a note of humour that makes even the tense scenes entertaining in a comic way. If there is a problem with the movie it stems from the fact that it takes on too much. There are the thriller aspects of several bank heists, good action sequences of robbers on the run, a romantic relationship that looks to be heading to the wrong place, and robbers trying to cope with their conflicted pasts. The film attempts frenzied action sequences, while at the same time tries to capture the delicacy of a blossoming romance. There is a terrific car chase sequence in the film’s middle, which seems typical for movies of this kind, and Claire is too sweet for Doug to give up.
The film succeeds only partially in all of what it attempts to do. One might have hoped for a more-in-depth view of the criminal subculture that spawned Doug’s commitment to it. However, Affleck does a great job of directing the movie himself, while also turning in an excellent performance as Doug.
For all of its two hours, this film entertains. Its rough language aside, it is both funny and involving. And it is seriously suspenseful, and very well acted.
Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out October 14, 2010.