“The Town” Review

Being a professional bank robber must be depressing. If I went through all that hard work to go in, grab the money and leave without a trace only to be looked down upon by society and possibly punished, my outlook on life would be pretty bleak. This is essentially the point of “The Town”, Ben Affleck’s second shot at directing, after 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone”. With a strong setting and cast of characters, “The Town” goes above and beyond to become one of the better heist movies of the last few years.

For Doug MacRay (Affleck) and his childhood best friend Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), the art of the heist is a way of life in their native Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston. MacRay enters into a relationship with a young woman named Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) who they take hostage early in the film, who has no idea that the man she loves leads a life of crime. This of course causes great tension among MacRay and his crew, and makes him consider leaving this line of work. While the story may not be entirely original, it stays interesting over its two-hour runtime.

What really makes “The Town” shines is its characters and the actors who play them. Affleck’s performance as the troubled, but still morally decent MacRay goes a long way toward showing us that bank robbery does not lead to happiness and luxury. The same goes to Renner as Coughlin, who represents the negative effects a life of crime can have on someone. He’s so out of control that he becomes genuinely scary at points. The rest of the supporting cast keep the movie going as well, with special interest going toward Jon Hamm as the FBI agent who is on their tail throughout the whole movie. He comes across as being almost as crazy as Coughlin at times.

The most interesting thing about “The Town” is the way in which it showcases Ben Affleck’s ability to direct. The film moves at a perfect pace, with no scene going on for too long or becoming boring. What audiences should look forward to the most, however, are the action sequences. Affleck handles the various heists and chases with incredible talent, never resorting to jerky camera work or computer-generated effects like so many filmmakers do these days. Special mention goes to a car chase throughout the narrow streets of Charlestown. It must have been nearly impossible to pull off, but Affleck does so perfectly.

It’s been a decent year for heist films. The second half of Christopher Nolan’s masterful “Inception” was essentially a long bank robbery, and “The Town” closes out the summer movie season in a good way with its morally complex characters and gripping direction. It’s safe to say that Ben Affleck has finally found his place in Hollywood.