The Town

The Town

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck, who also directed) commands a small group of Boston bank robbers fresh off a recent heist, in which they kidnapped and subsequently released bank manager Claire. MacRay’s mentally unstable “brother” and cohort, Jem, convinces himself that Claire will talk to the FBI and recommends taking care of things. Doug, ever the polite criminal, promises to smooth things over by arranging an accidental run-in with Claire at a laundry mat (they were masked, of course, so she doesn’t recognize him) and soon finds himself falling in love. This leads Doug to think it might be time to leave the business–much to the chagrin of his benefactor and boss, Fergie “The Florist” Colm–setting up a moral dilemma as the group tries to get him to pull one last job.

Affleck proves himself an assured director here, mounting intense action sequences that involve a whole hell of a lot of gunfire and somehow overcome the weak human elements of the script. Jeremy Renner, as Jem, shows once again why he’s one of the best actors working, winding his character so tight we think he might literally snap in half. Chris Cooper has a terrific, if brief, cameo as Doug’s incarcerated father. And the late Pete Postlethwaite practically snatches every scene he’s in from the hands of his co-stars as the ruthless and uncomfortably calm Florist.

Unfortunately, Affleck and his co-writers seem to have forgotten the finer points of seeing a plotline through to the end. In a surprisingly tense early scene, it’s made obvious that Claire knows something about Jem, only she doesn’t know she knows it. But Doug does, and he tries in earnest to make sure that Claire doesn’t inadvertently put herself in danger. This would have made a great movie. Unfortunately, the screenplay drops this riveting plot element less than half way through and never picks it up again. Instead, what Claire discovers, and how she discovers it, has nothing to do with that earlier scene, and everything to do with a gross violation of the ancient law of “show, don’t tell,” and everything deflates from there. Worse, Doug’s moral tug-of-war is written as bland and predictable, robbing the film of any real emotional grit.

Believe it or not, give The Town a chance. Affleck’s sure hand as a director, the terrific action sequences, and a trio of strong supporting performances more than make up for the screenplay’s weaknesses. It’s a flawed movie for sure, through and through, but you’ll probably have a lot of fun watching, anyway, and sometimes that’s enough.

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