Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

By this point and time anybody who has seen director Ben Affleck’s movie ‘The Town’ is familiar with the scene. In fact the scene is so well done that it could probably stand on its own as just ‘The Scene’. Doug (Affleck) is enjoying lunch with Claire (Rebecca Hall) when Doug’s boy Jem (Jeremy Renner) makes an unannounced visit. Jem is insane. He’s that guy you don’t take anywhere because you never know what he’s going to do. The scene is already tense because Doug is supposed to be keeping an eye on Claire, a potential witness to a bank heist that Doug, Jem and their other two colleagues pulled off, but he’s not supposed to be dating her. This already puts Jem on edge. More pressing is that during the robbery Claire noticed that one of the masked robbers had a Fighting Irish logo tattoo on the back of his neck. That would be Jem’s neck. This is critical info she withheld from the FBI out of fear, but confided to Doug. It’s a warm day, Jem is wearing a t-shirt and the logo is on broad display. The challenge for Doug is how does he keep his new girlfriend from seeing the tattoo because if she sees the tattoo then she will know, and once she knows then Jem will know that she knows. And only the Lord knows what would happen after that. I’ll have you know that I have no idea what any of the characters were saying during that scene because it was so tense and so well done and so deftly handled by Ben Affleck the film director that the only thing that was going through my mind was hoping that Claire wouldn’t see that tattoo. You will be hard pressed to find a better singular scene in a feature film than that one. ‘The Town’ as a movie overall was good one but it never reached the dizzying heights of potential set forth by that one scene. How could it?

To be honest with you that’s all I really wanted to say about this movie because the last thing the planet earth needs is another review of ‘The Town’ but I have a word quota to meet so we will continue on. This movie opens by informing us that the Charleston neighborhood of Boston is to bank robbing what Detroit is to making automobiles and our heroes Doug, Jem, Desmond (Owen Burke) and Albert (Slaine) are just following in the family business. The crew has this whole bank robbing thing down to a precise science, and while Jem tends to unnecessarily escalate things, he’s still a valuable to guy to have your team.

Investigating this rash of heists is soulless no nonsense FBI agent Adam Fawley (Jon Hamm) and his right hand man and Charleston native agent Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver). Truly, agent Fawley could give less than an f about anything or anyone outside of solving this case. The agents think they know, actually they know that they know who is doing these jobs, but they just don’t have the proof.

Meanwhile Doug’s feelings for this woman he’s allegedly monitoring has escalated causing the man to question his choice of profession but their handler (the late Pete Postlethwait) has one last job, and it’s a sweet one. Doug tries to back out, I mean the heat is on and he’s in love, but the game doesn’t work that way. And I think we’ve seen enough of these things to realize that the ‘last job’ usually does work its way into becoming the ‘last job’.

‘The Town’ is one fine crime thriller. You have a great performance from Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively was completely unrecognizable playing Jem’s slutty sister Krista, Pete Poslethwait is probably the most menacing florist you will ever want to buy flowers from and Chris Cooper makes an inspired cameo as Doug’s father who is spending the rest of his life in the ‘Suburbs’ as he informed his future girlfriend when quizzed by her about his family life. When there was the call for action this action was brisk, violent and unrelenting. A fine film.

However if there’s a fatal flaw in this movie it would definitely be the handling of the character of Doug. Without getting into the fact that we’re already on record stating we’d much rather see Ben Affleck direct than watch Ben Affleck act, but the way his character was treated felt off kilter. Is the guy a bank robber who busts into establishments brandishing automatic weapons or is he the misunderstood sensitive guy with the heart of gold looking for love? Not all movies need a hero or a good guy. Particularly movies about dudes who rob banks with mad amounts of automatic weapons and fire with intent to kill the police officers who would dare to pursue them. The concept of Doug falling for this woman was fine, I mean these things do happen and it produced some great drama in this movie, it’s just that at times the execution of it didn’t feel right, especially at the end when the rubber hits the road. Oh, and not only do movies about dudes who rob banks and shoot at cops don’t need a strong chinned hero, they also don’t necessarily need a happy ending. I’m just saying.

Despite my issues I had with ‘The Town’ I did enjoy Ben Affleck’s second film, probably even more than I enjoyed his first film ‘Gone Baby Gone’. The man is a filmmaker, believe that.

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