Archive for September 28th, 2010

The Town

The movie starts by telling us that Charlestown, a one-square-mile district of Boston is home to more bank robbers than anywhere else in the world and together they are responsible for around 300 robberies a year. Pretty much as soon as the movie starts we are introduced to one of these crews:

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) are like brothers, they have know each other all their lives, together with Albert ‘Gloansy’ Magloan (Slaine) and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke) they make up a small well organised team of bank robbers. After successfully completing a bank robbery they suspect that the bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) may be able to identify them. MacRay follows her for a time before introducing himself, the pair hit it off and against his better judgement they quickly start a relationship.

Based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, itself inspired by a real life robbery similar to one referred to in the movie carried out by Doug MacRay’s farther. The movie is always gritty and gripping with great and believable characters. The acting is great, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm are perfectly cast and give strong performances but its the women in supporting roles that steal the show; Blake Lively as Krista, James’ sister and Doug’s ex and the always watchable Rebecca Hall who gives a more low key and less showy but more emotional performance.

There is a recurring theme in Heist movies of the central character looking to get out of the business, this usually involves a woman and hope for, but not necessarily a search for redemption. This theme is certainly used but there is a lot more going on. If you set out to make a worthy film that is overtly about the limitations of ambition and prospects of people from a certain background (class, race, religion or socioeconomic) the story can be dull and contrived. But when you make a genre piece that has the confidence not to insult the intelligence of the audience that contains these themes and ideas you may just get the point across while entertaining the audience. The Town isn’t anything profound or amazing, just a really good genre movie with a bit of depth and intelligence below the surface.

Thanks to Michael Mann’s Heat the bar has been set pretty high when it comes to heist movies. This clearly isn’t Heat and it isn’t as good as Affleck’s first directorial feature Gone Baby Gone but it is probably the best example of the genre since Heat. Skilfully and confidently directed in such a way that you forget it is only the directors second movie.

Four Stars out of Five

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