Hopefully this will become more of a regular category on my blog, as I currently write more about new releases than those in retrospect. The Town, adapted from the novel Prince Of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, went on general release in 2010 and was directed by and starred Ben Affleck. Set in Charlestown, Boston (a blue-collared neighbourhood that claims to have produced more bank and armoured car robbers than anywhere in the world) it focuses on Doug MacRay (Affleck) and his crew following the after effects of their recent bank heist in the film’s opening.
The first film that springs to mind when thinking of this is Michael Mann’s 1995 film Heat. It’s difficult not to make any comparisons with this genre of crime film, especially with the action. Thankfully, The Town stands up on its own two feet. Whereas Heat blurred the line between cop & crook, The Town keeps the two sides of the law polarised and concentrates more on the latter. While it may seem strange to be rooting for a criminal who begins dating the very woman his crew took hostage in the film’s opening, it actually somehow works!
Ben Affleck’s initial cut was reported to be around 4 hours long, staying true to the source material. Then it was submitted to the studios at 170 mins, which was still deemed too long. As a result, some of the action was cut as was some subplots that allowed more character development. I’ve still yet to watch this extended version on blu-ray. The theatrical version is Doug’s story. He’s battling to get out and put Charlestown in his rear-view mirror, whilst walking an extremely tight line between the FBI and his own crew. This is where Jeremy Renner is the hidden “gem” of The Town; he plays Doug’s childhood friend and psychopathic crew partner. Renner’s unpredictable performance is outstanding and Oscar-worthy, you really fear what this guy will do next. Rebecca Hall delivers some great scenes too and has great on-screen chemistry with Affleck. Blake Lively is very surprising good in this film and literally transforms in comparison to other roles that you typically see her in, such as Gossip Girl. John Hamm isn’t quite the obsessed FBI Marshall as the plot’s premise insinuated. I feel there must have been some key character development scenes dropped in lieu of the film’s run time. Pete Postlethwaite is the local crime boss pulling the strings, and really pulls out a menacing performance as the man you certainly don’t want to say the wrong thing to.
The Town’s heist scenes are hard-hitting and the build up to the superb finale heist at Fenway Park is well paced. Ben Affleck really captures Boston in a way that makes the city a character in itself. Typically it’s New York or Chicago for the gritty visuals, but Boston provides something fresh to this new sub-genre of crime film, along with Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. My favourite scene has to be the one between Doug and Gem after Doug says he’s escaping Boston to head down south to Florida. The Town is a wonderfully crafted crime thriller with likeable characters and a great setting. By far Ben Affleck’s finest film to date (the latest being Argo), and I highly recommend picking it up if you haven’t seen it already. My next viewing of this will be the extended version, and I’ll be sure to add something to the end of this article when I do.