The Town * * * 1/2

Genre: Drama / Thriller

Director: Ben Affleck

Writers: Peter Craig and Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard, based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively

Running Length: 125 minutes

Synopsis: The film is set in Charlestown, Boston which apparently is the “bank robbery capital of North America”, and said “trade” is passed down from generation to generation like a family business. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is from one such family, and his father Stephen (Chris Cooper) is currently serving a life sentence in prison for murders associated with a robbery that went wrong. Doug himself runs a crew, which includes his best friends – James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy Magloan (Slaine) and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke). Doug is the brains of the operation whilst Coughlin is the unpredictable, violent one. In their latest heist, Coughlin takes the bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage, but is subsequently released, having never seen the robbers’ faces. However, when Doug tracks her down to ascertain that she can’t offer any helpful information to the police, he finds himself becoming attracted to her. In the mean time, the FBI is hot on the trail of the robbers, led by special agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm). Frawley doesn’t have enough evidence to land a conviction yet, but he is determined to put a stop to the robbers’ crime spree, preferably by catching them red handed.

Review: The trailers for The Town may have been somewhat misleading – they give the impression that this is heist film that is filled with action sequences, but in reality The Town is more a character drama with some well-placed and effectively executed action set pieces. This is a handsome, atmospheric movie filled to the brim with great acting from the ensemble cast, and a storyline that will keep most audiences engrossed throughout its two-hour running time.

Ben Affleck deserves major kudos, his sophomore directorial effort being almost as well done as his first (Gone Baby Gone). As a director, he has managed to capture the nuances of every major character in the film, and it’s truly a pleasure to observe action set pieces filmed with a steady hand, without the usual (nowadays) quick cuts and rapid edits that has plagued many an action film in recent years.

In front of the camera, Affleck also manages to acquit himself very well. His measured performance, whilst not the strongest in the film (that credit would have to be given to Jeremy Renner’s ferocious performance), makes Doug MacRay a character that audiences will have no trouble vesting their interest in. What’s probably even more surprising is that the romance between Doug and Claire is very believable, when this aspect of a heist movie is usually its weakest link.

What is the film’s weak link, unfortunately, is the climactic heist, which really is a little too preposterous for its own good. Also, for a film that seems intent to keep the volume dial down, the overreliance on firepower in this last sequence feels just a little out of place. There’s no denying, however, that this is a solidly entertaining dramatic thriller, and it proves that Ben Affleck isn’t a flash in the pan when it comes to his directorial skills.

Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)

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