The Town is an American crime-drama, co-written and directed by Ben Affleck, based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. Produced by Graham King, the movie stars Affleck in the lead, with Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, and Chris Cooper. (Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use)(Running Time: 125 minutes)
I’m behind on the times. I heard nothing but great reviews about this movie ever since it came out, but have been increasingly reluctant to sit down and watch due to the mega-spread stories (or rumors) of “the Aflac’s big screen return”. There will be zero denying that I have not been wowed by Ben in, well, anything, and I think he is just an overrated actor. However, I watched his other two directorial efforts, Gone Baby Gone (2007) and Argo (2012), and have concluded that while he is an overrated and overpaid actor, he shows talent for the director’s chair. There are also some new releases on the horizon he is penned to star in that makes me hesitantly hope that he might be getting “better”.
Well, now you’re aware of my initial reservations. So let’s talk about the movie.
Immediately after the first heist, I could tell Affleck and his production team did their research. The Town has a compelling level of realism, but showcases little intricate moments that touch back on popular heist movies like Point Break (1991) and Heat (1995). The scenes are tightly cut and keep your interest without losing focus on the characters, creating a alluring-enough story to keep you watching till the end.
I watched the theatrical cut, so I’m going to assume that there was a subplot or two, and additional scenes of character beef that had to be omitted to keep the original run time to just over two hours. But even with a full hour cut out of the print, I felt there were a couple of scenes that could’ve been cut down more, or taken away completely. The one Chris Cooper scene in prison didn’t feel that critical, aside from him and Ben talking frankly about his mother, but there seemed to be enough of that anchor throughout the rest of the movie. As far as character motive and emotional depth is concerned, The Town passed. But with an outstanding above grade average, but passing. There was enough dialogue and explanation and emotional jabs so a reviewer, like myself, couldn’t say it fell through on backstory.
Acting. Pretty good, overall. Ben’s mute expressions weren’t distracting enough to tear out the television set from the wall, but I think it’s because he wore masks throughout the movie. Jon Hamm was a delightful surprise, increasing his strength and presence as the story went on. And of course, Jeremy Renner, who was electrifying enough to steal the movie every time he stepped on screen. If he had lost 30 pounds like Christian Bale did for The Fighter the same year, he probably would’ve ended up taking home gold.
I’ll give The Town a slightly above average B-. While the movie held its sturdy structure, there was nothing unique or new to it, comparing it with others in the genre. Relatively strong acting overall, yes. Relatively good directing overall, yes. Relatively original story, meh. In its defense, the heist genre has a limited scope for plots. A film that has stretched and sensationalized a heist movie to the extreme is probably Inception (2010).
The film was met with largely positive reviews, like I said earlier. The critics praised Ben’s direction and Renner’s acting chops the most, which I can get behind. In his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott commented on the opening heist, “That sequence, like most of the other action set pieces in the film, is lean, brutal and efficient, and evidence of Mr. Affleck’s skill and self-confidence as a director.” Xan Brooks, in The Guardian, wrote that the action sequences were “sharply orchestrated” but added “it’s a bogus, bull-headed enterprise all the same; a film that leaves no cliche untrampled.” Justin Chang wrote in Variety that the action scenes strike “an ideal balance between kineticism and clarity” aided by cinematographer Robert Elswit and film editor Dylan Tichenor. It faired well at the September opening box office, eventually gaining over $154 million on a $37 million budget. Renner was later nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.
It’s a good movie, don’t get me wrong. I recommend it. If you like bank caper-like movies, you’ll more than likely enjoy this. If you like Boston, you’ll definitely get a kick from this. If you absolutely love Ben Affleck–well, all I can say is: God be with you.