The Town - Cinema Review

'The Town's two-hours flies by like a ninety-minute thriller'

If you get bored during The Town then start playing a game. Start spotting all the similarities with Michael Mann's Heat. There's the two very intelligent blokes front and centre, one on the right side of the law (Jon Hamm) and one on the other (Ben Affleck, who also directs). The two come together after the 'bad' one pulls a job where an impetuous member of his team (Jeremy Renner) goes a step too far. Linked by fate the two cross paths often but meet rarely whilst the criminal must decide on his future, weighed down by the pressure of opportunity from his fence-cum-mobster (Pete Postlethwaite).

Sounds familiar doesn't it? For all its smarts and for all of Affleck's clever direction and surprisingly under-stated lead turn, The Town is basically Heat 2: Boston Takedown. There are even more similarities than above which, lest spoilers start to come in, we won't discuss here but, rest assured, if you can think of a fairly key piece of plotting in Heat, then odds are, it's in The Town.

Despite the indelible links between the two, it's unfair to look at any film through the eyes of mere comparison. The good news then is that, on its own, The Town is very good. Affleck and Renner, as the two leaders of a gang of four criminals, both standout, Renner showing a detached and different side to his acting than the one we saw in The Hurt Locker, Affleck reflecting the poise of his character remarkably. The script, based on a Chuck Hogan novel, also deserves huge amounts of praise; at no point I can remember did anyone pause to tell me how scared kidnap victim Claire (Rebecca Hall) was or how mad, bad, and violent Jem (Renner) is - it's almost completely exposition free - an all too rare thing in Hollywood pictures.

Affleck has been praised for creating characters - not archetypes, but real characters - rooted in Charlestown, Boston, a place which tangibly pervades everything going on in the film. On the one hand, those pieces of praise are entirely correct; Doug (Affleck) and Jem are great characters, as is Jon Hamm's F.B.I agent whilst Blake Lively is a revelation as Doug's hometown love-interest. But on the other, Postlethwaite is a complete stereotype whilst the remaining two members of the gang (Slaine and Owen Burke) appear incidental entities, paid barely lip-service and getting a meagre number of lines, ditto Hamm's right-hand man (Titus Welliver) on the other side.

The above can perhaps be forgiven for the necessity of pace and The Town's two-hours flies by like a ninety-minute thriller showing again that Affleck the director has considerable nous. This film doesn't mark him out as a good director so much as it marks him out as a Hollywood force to be reckoned with: an emerging talent with a significant pedigree behind him. Come the concluding battle though - all loud echoing gunshots and criminal invention versus police numbers - it's far too easy to feel like we've seen a lot of this before. An enjoyable but flawed thriller which is never anything less than deep and entirely entertaining.

Look further...

'The moral grayness gets drowned out by the gunfire and it’s underused, but it’s there and it’s powerful' - M. Carter @ The Movies, B+


  1. Really? You got bored? It's true that it takes a lot from previous movies and doesn't break any new ground. However, I didn't it was about the story so much as how the story is told.

    Glad you liked it although it seems I enjoyed it a bit more ;)

  2. I personally didn't get bored - The Town kept my attention from beginning to end - but I can completely see how you could get bored because, as you say, so much of it is lifted from other places. A good point about 'how the story is told' but I don't really think Affleck does much new with it.

    I enjoyed it but I don't see a classic here, just a perfectly OK thriller.