The Town

Just because you are raised in a tough neighborhood where crime is broken down to a science instead of frowned upon, does that mean you are destined to that lifestyle forever? Charlestown, Massachusetts is infamous for its consistent crop of armed bank robbers and thieves. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is one of them, but as we learn in The Town, robbing banks isn’t necessarily all that defines him.


MacRay and his three friends, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy and Desmond, meticulously rob a bank and in the process traumatize the manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). In order to cover their tracks, Doug tails Claire to make sure she is not giving information to the FBI. Against his better judgment, Doug begins to build a remarkably genuine relationship with Claire. Meanwhile, Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is furiously working to find Doug’s crew and send a message to the Charlestown robbers by putting them away for good.

Directed by Affleck, who clearly took notes when working with author Dennis Lehane* on Gone Baby Gone, The Town emphasizes the reality of this criminal lifestyle for people born and raised in Charlestown. The events that unfold always follow a relatively realistic pattern, even to the very end. This is by far the best part of the film because it keeps you on edge and gets into your psyche. You begin to wonder how far away from the typical Hollywood robbery films it will go and to what extent. Obviously there are plenty of surreal occurrences, but I am speaking in comparison to the norm.

Other than the realism, The Town is simply entertaining. At times it drags, but as a result of such an immense amount of plot rather than lack a slow pace. The first half hour is so jam-packed with information it feels like a full feature film. You wonder how there can be two hours of it, but there certainly is. We spend plenty of time getting to know Doug, obviously, which ends up being beneficial and hurtful. We learn about his conflicted nature as a genuinely good guy who does bad things, but other characters are just as interesting (Coughlin). It’s interesting to watch Affleck because his face always remains solemn or stern, but the character reacts in a way that he doesn’t need a range of emotions.

Renner got an Oscar nod for his performance. I don’t have much to say on that; it’s just trivia. He did well, but I wasn’t amazed.

Easily the worst part about the film is the accents. Everyone, including Blake Lively (Coughlin’s sister), go above and beyond when thickening their Boston accents. It makes the film incredibly hard to understand at points until you realize a good amount of the dialog is pointless.

All in all, The Town was a surprisingly heartfelt and thrilling film. I had almost no expectations for it – even my old roommate who loves these films was lukewarm about it – so I am happy to say that it was a pleasant surprise. If you were on the fence, I’d urge you to check it out. Even for those who have little interest, Affleck clearly put in the time to make The Town worthwhile and succeeds.

*If you are a crime novel fan, check out Lehane’s work. Mystic River, Shutter Island, and Gone Baby Gone are just the ones turned into films; he has many more of the same quality.

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