Directed by: Ben Affleck
Premise: A Boston bank robber (Ben Affleck) falls for a woman (Rebecca Hall) employed at the bank he just held up. As he tries to find a way out of his lifestyle, the people around him, including a psychotic friend (Jeremy Renner), force him into taking one last job.
What Works: The Town is an impressive entry in the cops and robbers genre. The film is excellently shot and edited and director Ben Affleck has a keen sense for how to tell a lean story while still adequately shaping the characters and subplots. Unlike some other heist films, The Town is at all times credible in its robberies, chases, and shootouts. The film does not overreach in an attempt to be too clever for its own good, as some bank robbery films are prone to do. Instead the focus is on the characters and the environment in which they live, and the actors deliver very impressive performances. Ben Affleck plays his role very well, as he reconciles the violent and lawless criminal actions of this man with a sense of hope and decency. It is a careful performance that isn’t flashy and is easy to overlook. The really standout roles of The Town belong to Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner. Hall is sweet and vulnerable but the film fleshes her out into a full character with dignity and intelligence. Renner has the most ostentatious role in the film, as he is the most violent, but like Affleck, Renner provides his character some sense of decency or at least an internal code of ethics that he rigidly stands behind. There are some smaller supporting roles (glorified cameos really) by Chris Cooper as the incarcerated father to Affleck’s character and Pete Postlethwaite as the local crime lord. The two men contribute a lot to the film in the little bit of screen time that they are given and their presence opens up the film to a new theme: the way violence and criminality are passed from father to son. This underlying theme, and the struggle of Affleck’s character with it, gives The Town a deeper and more complex meaning underlying its cops and robbers surface.
What Doesn’t: The Town is fairly predictable and viewers familiar with the heist genre will note a lot of characteristic and even cliché characters and plot twists such as the love affair with a good woman who allows a path to redemption, the psychotic friend and the crime lord, and the final job that will allow the hero to escape his station in life. Although these conventions are all here, The Town does them well and its characters are vibrant enough to give the film a pass.
Bottom Line: The Town is an excellent heist picture on par with similar films like Bonnie and Clyde, The Departed, and Heat. This is a lean film full of excellent acting performances and despite its reliance on convention it is an impressive piece of movie making.
Episode: #307 (September 26, 2010)