Boston has produced a bumper crop of crime capers in recent years, including such grisly thrillers as Mystic River (2003), The Departed (2006), Gone Baby Gone (2007), What Doesn’t Kill You (2008) and Edge of Darkness (2010). Ben Affleck, who made an auspicious directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone, is back with his sophomore effort, The Town, another impressive addition to the super-realistic genre.
This go-round, he also stars as Doug MacRay, a career criminal hailing from Charlestown a tight-knit, blue-collar community located on a peninsula connected by bridge to Beantown proper. As narrator, he informs us at the outset that his Irish stronghold’s claim to fame is that it has produced more bank robbers, present company included, than any other neighborhood in the world.
In fact, he’s about to hatch a heist in nearby Cambridge with the help of his loyal, lifelong friends Jem (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy (Slaine) and Des (Owen Burke). They all don masks to hide their identities before bursting into the bank and prompting the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) at gunpoint to open the vault by reminding her that “It’s not your money.”
However, Claire’s momentary hesitation to dial the combination provides enough of a distraction to give one of her colleagues an opportunity to trigger an alarm. Realizing that the cops are en route, the four impulsively agree to drag her as a hostage into the getaway vehicle. To make sure she won’t cooperate with the cops, they take her driver’s license before releasing her on the street.
As it turns out, she’s from Charlestown, so ringleader Doug assumes the job of intimidating the attractive eyewitness. But against his better judgment, when he follows her to a laundromat, he asks her for a date instead of threatening to break her kneecaps.
Clueless Claire has no idea that gentlemanly Doug is the dude who had recently abducted her, so she unwittingly allows herself to be swept off her feet before proceeding to fall passionately in love with the protective hunk. This development doesn’t sit well with her sweetheart’s homeys who know that the authorities are probably carefully monitoring her every movement.
Meanwhile, the noose gradually starts to tighten around Doug’s neck due to the omnipresence of a team of nosey FBI agents led by Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm). To make matters worse, although he’d prefer to keep a low profile, Doug starts to feel intense pressure to mastermind an armored car robbery from the local mob boss (Pete Postlethwaite) to whom he is indebted.
As you might guess, especially if you’ve seen a few of these high body-count sagas set in Boston, such complicated scenarios rarely end on an upbeat note after the gun smoke clears. Still, it’s very entertaining waiting to see who’ll be the last man standing in this gripping, gritty example of cinema verite.
A riveting, immorality play establishing Ben Affleck as a director to be reckoned with.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 123 Minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers
To see a trailer for The Town, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXY_JvOK63c