Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Town (2010)


Seasoned bank robbers, headed by Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), run into trouble as MacRay begins to develop feelings for Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a bank manager they took hostage in their latest heist. Fearing what she may know MacRay must balance his hot-headed childhood friend James (Jeremy Renner) and a ever tightening grip of FBI investigators, headed by Agent Frawly (Jon Hamm).

"I'll see you again, on this side or the other."

Perhaps the most striking quality of The Town is its overwhelming ability to sell you on all of its various elements during the film's runtime. Make no mistake about it, Affleck's direction is top form, and it quite honestly has to be. I'm not saying the writing here is bad. In fact the dialogue is well formed, and like his debut, Gone Baby Gone, Affleck manages to blend morally ambiguous characters and plot points quite nicely. It's just that, when it comes to characters, the ones on display here aren't nearly as deep as they'd like to appear.

MacRay, whose warring moral conscious lay at the heart of the film, is handled with great heart by Affleck, but all too often the film self-justifies his actions, contradicting them here and there. Hall is a delight as Claire, but there's not enough back story, and time spent, for her relationship with MacRay to have developed to all it needed to be.

The real shining performances lay in the more supporting roles. Renner is the show stealer as James, bringing all the intensity and raw emotion lacking during some of the films finer moments. While Blake Lively steps up her game ten fold as Krista, the often ignored drug addict ex-girlfriend of MacRay's. Still leaving Postlewaithe being predictably awesome, and Hamm handling his role well enough, despite it being monotone.

What really saves, or perhaps better stated - creates, The Town is the direction. The carefully designed, and executed action/heist sequences. The smooth editing (minus the roadside diner conversation) intertwines the history and present of our crew of criminals brilliantly. Still maintaining an element of ambiguity that, while it tries to humanize these criminals, it seldom tries to justify them (just MacRay).

It wants you to care about them for who they are, both good and bad. It wants you to understand that with growing up in a certain community, comes the ideals of that community. That no matter how flawed they may be, they exist in the heart of these people, because that's what they know. It's the life they know, and it's the way they are. The Town does a wonderful job of capturing that societal truth, and while it may not always add up well, it presents it with great precision.

The Town makes up for its narrative woes with beautifully orchestrated shots, and direction. Utilizing both action and character moments to move the plot forward, all the while keeping enough to itself that it doesn't totally give way. It may not be quite as great as it could have been, but from start to finish it's worth every moment of your time.

Note: I've read a lot of commenters pointing out they don't wish to see it fearing the trailer gave away the entire movie. I can tell you it really doesn't give away anything unless you have the film's context. About 3/4 the commercial takes place in scenes from the first half of the film, most from the opening heist sequence.

9 better thoughts:

Unknown said...

Sounds like a movie I'd like to see.


Ryan McNeil said...

For me this went down as a good-not-great caper, and left me scratching my head as to what all the fuss was about.

You're right to point out that the crux of the film isn't given away in the trailer though. My big qualm was the fact that the setting of the final takedown is given away in the trailer.

Castor said...

Nice review chief. Definitely a movie worth a watch. Although it doesn't reach greatness, it is still a well above average heist action thriller with solid all-around performances and direction.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I might not make it to the theater for this one, but I'll definitely catch it on NetFlix.

Candice Frederick said...

nice review--totally checking this ou this weekend.

Univarn said...

@Clarissa I can't wait to hear your feadback

@Mad I know we've had this discussion on your blog. You going to bring someone in to discuss The Town on a Matineecast, or you gonna skip it in favor of something opening this weekend?

@Castor It seems to me that ever since Heat movies have been trying to both mimic and disassociate themselves. Tough world for heist films.

@AlexJ It's definitely a solid DVD pickup if that's the route you're going to go.

@Candice Look forward to your thoughts on it.

CMrok93 said...

Jeremy Renner stole every scene he was in and Jon Hamm did a phenomenal job as well. If anybody thought Affleck's success with Gone Baby Gone was just a fluke, they need to see this movie.

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