The town in question is Charlestown, where this crime drama based on Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves” is set, and where criminality is seen as a way of life proudly passed from father to son. It’s written and directed by Ben Affleck who also stars as Doug MacRay, the leader of a vicious gang of bank robbers.
From the outset, you’re thrown into the action, as four masked men carry out a well-planned heist and kidnaping of bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). MacRay begins monitoring Claire to see if she implicates him or his gang associates to the FBI. As always, things aren’t that simple. MacRay crosses the line between observer and observed, leading to an exchange in a launderette where he begins to feel sorry for Claire and they fall for each other. MacRay also grapples with his love-hate relationship with both his career and hometown, saying “I wanna put this whole town in my rear-view mirror,” regardless of the feelings of long-time friend and fellow gang member, Jem (Jeremy Renner) and chilling crime boss, Fergie ‘The Florist’ Colm (Pete Postlethwaite). Meanwhile, all these characters are being very closely investigated by FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm), who is eager to catch the bank robbers.
My initial expectations for this film were quite split. Ben Affleck’s filmography is riddled with more misses than hits (Pearl Harbour and Daredevil notable examples of the former). The Town, however, is most certainly a hit. Affleck, directs with confidence. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for his stiff portrayal of MacRay. Although his character had a well-developed back-story – how his mother abandoned him and his father, his relationship with drug addict ex-lover Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) – I struggled to understand what he was saying during most of the film. Maybe some diction lessons Mr Affleck?
The rest of the cast, however, were spectacular. Lively, known as Gossip Girl’s Serena van der Woodsen, is completely unrecognisable from her clean-cut persona in the TV show, and Rebecca Hall was an excellent emotional centre of the film. Mad Men’s Jon Hamm was also able to make an impression, even though he had a supporting role.
The Town has a little something for everyone – even if its resolution is a little on the sappy side – and I will definitely think twice about doubting Affleck’s abilities in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve next.