Reviews

The Town

4

Affleck’s here to stay, baby, stay…

The town in question is Charlestown, Boston, a blue-collar neighbourhood where crime isn’t a life choice, it’s survival. Carjacks, kidnaps, armed robberies…

Charlestown, the opening title-scrawl informs us, is the world’s capital for such employment, the tricks of the trade passed from fathers to sons. Then a voiceover kicks in, running details on a pair of security guards who are about to get rolled.

Gravel-toned, pragmatic, it’s the voice of Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), the brains of the brawny crew who hit a bank. The commentary won’t appear again until the closing scenes. It doesn’t need to, its job is done: we’re 20 seconds into Affleck’s sophomore directing effort and we already know this is a hardboiled crime drama, a modern-day noir.

And while The Town glories in genre tropes it also dumps any overt stylings or clipped, staccato dialogue, instead keeping the action alive and lithe. Keeping it real.

The plot is conventional, clichéd even, MacRay trying to find that one last job, get out, “put this whole fuckin’ town in my rear-view mirror.” No one will let him. The vicious, leather-skinned ‘florist’ (Pete Postlethwaite) who assigns MacRay his gigs is not prepared to lose him.

Loose cannon Jem (Jeremy Renner) – MacRay’s right-hand man, his oldest friend, a guy who “lives for coke and Xbox” and who took nine years over ratting – would see it as a personal betrayal. And dedicated Fed Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is methodically building a case, MacRay’s 12x8 glossy stuck front and centre in a wall of photos.

There’s a girl, of course. Claire (Rebecca Hall) is no femme fatale, per se, but she’s certainly dangerous to know, to love, and her presence upsets the status quo and sets dominoes tumbling. She manages the bank MacRay and his boys take down in the first scene. Gun to head, it is she who opens the safe and is then taken hostage to leverage the getaway.

Set loose, it transpires she lives four blocks from MacRay. He says he’ll ‘deal’ with the situation. Instead he falls for her, the one woman who can identify the gang…

It’s the stuff of movies but firmly grounded in the city where Affleck grew up, among the streets and people he knows, and events play out against freeways and chainlink fences, construction sites and baseball parks, bars and Laundromats.

Unsentimental and unforgiving, this is a film composed of bleached daytime visuals and dirty neon nightscapes; the only beauty on show is the hard, glinting sunlight bouncing off cars in a lot.

The characters are products of their environment. They wear sweatshirts, tats and bling, talk casinos, ponies and strip joints. They’re slumped by disappointment, hardened by violence. Their friends are fuck-ups, their families torn apart. “It sounded like a trapped animal,” MacRay flatly tells Claire, describing his father’s weeping when his mother left. “I’d never heard a man cry before.”

It’s everywhere, this pain, each private wrench contributing to a broken society. Jem’s dad was killed in prison, his mother died of HI V. Claire lost her brother. MacRay’s on-off squeeze Krista (Blake Lively) is a damaged single mom who drinks and fucks and does her best.

And so it is that MacRay and Claire cherish their growing trust, protect it. Their love is new and not yet sullied, shining with hope in a town without any. But their relationship is doomed from the start. Their trust is built on lies. “Ask me anything you want,” MacRay pleads when Claire’s belief in him has been shattered. “I won’t believe you,” she says. “Yes, you will.” “Why?” “Because you’ll fuckin’ hate the answers…”

The Town is full of great exchanges, great scenes, all of them infused with authenticity. The action, when it comes, is vital and well handled, with all three of the movie’s heists utilising whip-pans and an urgent percussive score to hustle and hurtle. But it’s the troubled calms before the storms that most impress.

Affleck is the lynchpin, his smirk now more sad than smug. Renner lends a dangerous, thrilling energy to proceedings, the muscles on the back of his neck bunching as his rage sprays out in all the wrong directions.

Mad Men’s Hamm brings depth and control to his obsessive G-Man, a movie staple. Gossip Girl’s Lively does even better, her tart with a heart far from off the peg – the pain and spirit she accesses deserve Academy scrutiny. And Hall is strong and vulnerable and plain damn lovely; who wouldn’t lose his heart to her?

Affleck’s drama isn’t perfect: support characters are only sketched in, a seemingly impossible escape from a surrounded building is stolen goods and the closing voiceover is glib. But these are niggles, and The Town rises above them. In a year when so much of American cinema is bankrupt, it packs real, serious heat.
 

Verdict:

The loudest shoot-outs since Michael Mann, Renner mining Cagney and Fate propelling events à la Mystic River – yet The Town is more indebted to life than movies. A triumph.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • shawndomain

      Sep 10th 2010, 16:19

      Love to post a review after going to the free screening but at 16.16 today there were no tickets left to the free screenings???? The TF email was only sent at 14.39 today so either very very popular or it was a single screening for the whole county??

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    • brandi832

      Sep 18th 2010, 16:44

      5

      I can't remember the last time I saw a great movie!!! Very well done! Didn't drag on..I loved it!! I want to go see it again!!

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    • AJ1976

      Sep 18th 2010, 23:56

      Ali Jahanfard

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    • AJ1976

      Sep 18th 2010, 23:56

      Ali Jahanfard

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    • Noza619

      Sep 21st 2010, 0:38

      5

      The Town is a true cinematic triumph. Thrilling action, heartfelt emotion and a great performance from Jeremy Renner. The plot is well-worn, but Ben Affleck gives it a fresh feel with another excellent directoral feature. Truly stunning.

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    • hecticc

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:00

      I watched this film last night at Wandsworth cinema and i can tell you now from the moment the film started the film action,storyline and good acting was immediately letting you know your in for a good film. I truly recommend you check this film out i will be blogging about the film on www. freemoviescreening .co.uk . So go an watch this film its definately amongst the best films of the year in both my opinion and my girlfriends.

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    • dumdumboy

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:00

      3

      I love Ben Affleck the director, but for me Ben the actor simply doesn't cut the mustard. Noble attempt to make a thriller with gravitas (and, boy, we need them!). It felt closer to the great films of the 70s than the totally mundane 'Mystic River'.

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    • nickynoos

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:01

      4

      Excellent film, definately one to recommend to friends. Loved it...

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    • elaineadamd

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:02

      3

      This film had a good combination of action, romance, and comedy. Good car chase but the emotions could have been more realistic.

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    • EricHitchmo

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:12

      2

      A competent but incredibly generic, uninspired, and boring film.

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    • Arlenedaniel

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:15

      3

      Good film, although I felt it was a little predictable with similarities to Point Break & The Departed. Will recommend as all in all a enjoyable film

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    • cheeksdevil

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:18

      5

      Loved this film thought it was realy nice change from all the recent rom com's i've seen lately despite the fact that it did slow down a little half way through. But the ending more than made up for that :D

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    • khushnud

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:30

      3

      Watched this at Cineworld Cambridge. I usually don't go in for crime thrillers but I love freebies so went in with an open mind. And from start to finish, it had me gripped. Intermingled with the usual thrills and spills of a crime drama, there is a lot of heartache too. Affleck directs well and gets the desired result.

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    • starla

      Sep 21st 2010, 12:37

      5

      Excellent movie!

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    • mh2bul

      Sep 21st 2010, 13:02

      4

      Very entertaining movie, great build up to a poor unclimactic ending.

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    • CelineL

      Sep 21st 2010, 13:32

      5

      Fantastic movie! Very well directed and played. I definitely recommend it!

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    • durnan01

      Sep 21st 2010, 13:52

      4

      I found this very entertaining better than the usual cops and robbers film. Ben Affleck was good , although could have done with some translation at the beginning as accents where a bit difficult to understand. Ending a bit disapointing bit bland.

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    • dmiraz

      Sep 21st 2010, 13:58

      4

      Good movie, genre has been covered many times, but the characters were good and plot lines had enough options in them to keep it interesting.

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    • durnan01

      Sep 21st 2010, 14:09

      4

      I enjoyed this film would recomend

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    • helenbubble

      Sep 21st 2010, 14:36

      4

      Really loved this film. Loved the car chase scene. Ben Affleck did a really good job!!

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    • tigerlilly

      Sep 21st 2010, 15:42

      4

      film was brill, nailbiteing,

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    • themdogs

      Sep 21st 2010, 16:36

      2

      Couldn't make up it's mind whether it wanted to be an all action bank-robber-car-chase-shoot-out extravaganza....or a wimpy villain turns good(ish) guy for the love of a good woman (or bank manager)film. The total embarassment at the end when the repentant baddie runs off leaving his ill gotten gains for his lost love to spend on refurbishing the sports centre for the underprivaleged kids was just a sentimental cliche too far, relegating the film 2 a lowly 2stars.

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    • katijan2000

      Sep 21st 2010, 16:46

      3

      Definitely been done before but enjoyable. Felt a bit like the film of what happened to the boys after Will Hunting left but still a good movie.

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    • ckleigh85

      Sep 21st 2010, 16:54

      3

      Really enjoyed this film, lots of action and very well executed but it was very focused on Ben Affleck's acting ability and I know he directed it but I did think it was a little much especially the last scene was a bit unnecessary. Still really like it though.

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    • mudisoft

      Sep 21st 2010, 18:37

      4

      enjoyed it quite much!

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    • donna

      Sep 21st 2010, 20:49

      5

      yet again Ben Afleck proves himself as a director. Enjoyable from start to finnish, great characters and storey. Reccomend to all to go and see, a true movie lovers movie.

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    • donna

      Sep 21st 2010, 20:51

      5

      Great movie. Directed and acted well, highly reccomended to all those people out there who love movie. Yet again afflick proves himself as a director.

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    • wlmcdonough

      Sep 21st 2010, 21:02

      2

      Considering the protagonist’s past exploits and violence served out to others due to his indirect actions it’s difficult to feel any empathy for him. I stopped caring. Maybe it’s a sign of the times but I failed to see the hero in the anti-hero character and feel if Ben wasn’t both star and director the story may have played out differently. I left the cinema feeling empty, disappointed and sadly bored.

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    • alkamal

      Sep 22nd 2010, 0:37

      4

      Thoroughly enjoyed the film, was gripping from start to finish. Very good acting and script. Thought Blake Lively in particular was brilliant. Thanks Total Film!

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    • naty15

      Sep 22nd 2010, 1:01

      4

      watched the movie 20/09/2010 enjoyed the movie.

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    • Footpather

      Sep 22nd 2010, 10:10

      4

      Not usually my favourite genre of film but was more than pleasantly surprised. Good mix of action and gentler moments. Nice storyline too which is often lacking in modern action films as they usually want to get as many crashes and bangs in as possible. Ending was a bit cliched but nevertheless well worth watching.

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    • helendaniel82

      Sep 22nd 2010, 13:39

      5

      I loved this movie. Gritty and real, a slow burner, but gripping all the same. Interesting to see Blake Lively from Gossip Girl not wearing designer clothes for once. Stand out performance from Ben Affleck. He has really landed as a director. Definitely going to watch Gone Baby Gone now. Can't wait for his next outing.

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    • elaineadams

      Sep 22nd 2010, 15:35

      3

      This film has something for most cinema goers...a bit of comedy, a lot of action, a tender love affair, brilliant car chase...foul language. My colleague and I enjoyed the film immensely. Well done to Ben Affleck, this is the 2nd film we have seen that he has directed, and look forward to the next one.

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    • ratqueenno1

      Sep 22nd 2010, 22:12

      5

      the Town what can i say it was action packed brilliant i'd recomend it to anyone it's a must see

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    • Dirtrider

      Sep 23rd 2010, 20:43

      4

      Really enjoyed , but spoiled slightly by the overblown climax at Fenway. Overall well done Ben & Co.

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    • WickedTricksy

      Sep 24th 2010, 16:11

      5

      I absolutely adored this movie. Brilliant performances all round. Sure it wasn't perfect but I give it 5 for heart and effort. Blake Lively proves here she is far more than a Gossip Girl and Jeremy Renner is reliably brilliant. A must see.

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    • Flick

      Sep 26th 2010, 4:38

      4

      Critics get too technical but that's their job. Movies are supposed to entertain and The Town delivers. Read the fans' reviews. One of best bank robber movies made. Great ending.

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    • shaz1

      Sep 29th 2010, 13:47

      4

      Better than the usual cops and robbers . Felt the ending was a bit poor

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    • shaz1

      Sep 29th 2010, 13:49

      4

      Bit better than usual cops and robbers.

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    • shaz1

      Sep 29th 2010, 13:51

      4

      Better than the usual cops and robbers

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    • Frankie88

      Dec 15th 2010, 10:20

      2

      Ben Affleck is a good man - he recycles.

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    • Ali1748

      Jan 30th 2011, 6:18

      5

      Loved it, if it wasn't for Inception it would've been my favourite movie of the year.

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      Feb 25th 2011, 9:53

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    • mplo42

      Sep 12th 2011, 16:16

      1

      Being from the Boston area, I've always enjoyed seeing films about Boston, so I was looking forward to seeing The Town when it first made its debut into the movie theatres. After seeing a couple of times in the theatre and several more times on a DVD version of The Town that I borrowed from our local public library, and liking the beginning of The Town, the movie began to rapidly go downhill for me after the first heist. The scenes in Fenway Park and the North End are overblown, the Boston accents, especially on the part of Ben Affleck very overdone, and the Doug/Claire romance very forced and paltry. They're like two young teens just starting out on their first romance. The cast is mediocre at best, and the characters are underdeveloped. The ending of the film is rather sappy and saccarine, and rather improbable.

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    • mplo42

      Sep 12th 2011, 16:30

      1

      The Town is more like a feature-length made-for-TV film. It's an overrated, cheesy piece of junk.

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