Affleck goes to Town

Crime dramas are a dime a dozen these days, but every once in a while a heist flick comes along that’s worth its weight in gold.The Town, starring director and co-writer Ben Affleck is one of these gems.

The film is set in Charlestown, Boston, where bank robbers, car thieves and drug addicts are easier to find than Red Sox fans.  Affleck’s character, Doug Macray, is the brains behind a team of enthusiastic thieves who are forced to take a hostage during their latest bank robbery.  The hostage, Claire (played by Rebecca Hall), is released physically unharmed but the group fears that even though they were all masked, she may have information that could land them in hot water with the FBI.  Doug is elected to follow her and determine whether or not she needs to be “taken care of.”  Things get complicated when Doug strikes up a romantic relationship with Claire which threatens his professional relationship with his boss and partners, who also happen to be his friends and family.  What follows is a nail-biting 120 minutes that will have you holding your breath until the final shots ring out.

Speaking of big-shots, the usual gang’s all here in this one — cocky, hotheaded James (Jeremy Renner), hard-as-nails “Gloansy” (Slaine), new kid Desmond (Owen Burke) and the no-nonsense FBI agents who are hot on their trails, Frawley and Ciampa (played by Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver).  Affleck, Hall and Hamm stand out (rightfully so) as the top-billed cast members but audiences will also recognize Slaine and Welliver from Affleck’s previous film, Gone Baby Gone. The film is wonderfully cast and brilliantly acted but possibly the most surprising  performance belongs to Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively who plays Doug’s ex — a drug addicted young mother and local floozy.  Lively proves that she’s more than just a pretty face, and can hold her own next to A-list stars like Ben Affleck.  It’s a shame that her character, Krista, and her daughter, Shine, only get minimal screen time.  Regardless, Lively will be one to watch in the future if her performance in The Town is any indication of her dramatic abilities.

Another name worth mentioning here is the film’s director of photography, Robert Elswit — the visual force behind such films as Salt, There Will be Blood, and Syriana.  He demonstrates his keen eye for action, composition and atmosphere yet again in The Town.  The film is beautifully shot and the dreary Boston backdrop appears as cold and gritty as the criminals inhabiting it. 

Homages to films such as HeatThe Departed, and The Shawshank Redemption will not be lost on the informed movie-goer.  Ultimately, The Town is a satisfying sophomore feature for Affleck, one which eagerly steps into the big shoes left by Gone Baby Gone and is off and running.  Audiences won’t be disappointed, given the visual caliber, acting talent and clear writing the film exhibits.