Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Town

Lowdown: Guys growing in a neighborhood of bank robbers have a hard time changing their ways.
Ben Affleck’s big time directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, was a very solid performer. I might have some reservations about his acting but he gave me all the reasons to see his next film, The Town. You could argue The Town indicates Affleck is stuck with material from his home town of Boston, but I would have to argue The Town is yet another solid performer – which is all that matters.
The setting is a small Boston suburb called Charlestown, which happens to be heavily populated by armed car and bank robbers. For the record, I have no idea how realistic this setting is; I don’t think that matters much, though. We are quickly introduced to several guys from the hood as they perform armed bank robbery with much aghast and panache, most notably Doug (played by the director himself) and James (Jeremy Renner, of The Hurt Locker fame). Doug is the brains but James is hot headed, and in order to secure their escape they take a bank employee hostage. As can be expected from an American film, that employee happens to be an attractive young woman, Claire (Rebecca Hall).
Our “heroes” make their escape and release the hostage, but then realize Claire is also a Charlestown resident and could therefore pose a threat. Doug doesn’t want James to apply violence so he pursues that cause himself, but – as can be expected from an American film – falls for the girl. She falls for him, too, despite obvious class gaps. Indeed, we are meant to perceive Doug as a smart good guy who ended up bank robbing for the sole reason he was born into the wrong area.
Further complications and characters are introduced. An FBI agent (Jon Hamm) is always close on the hunt for both our guys and the romantic services of Claire. We also learn Doug has something going on with James’ sister, although the sister’s child is not his; at the same time we learn our gang is being forced to commit further crimes. The question then becomes whether Doug can tear himself apart from his background, as represented by James, and establish a honest life as represented by Claire?
The Blu-ray we watched contains the standard cinematic version of a bit more than two hours as well as an extended version of two and a half hours. We watched the latter, and it showed: The Town is quite full of depth, with extraordinarily well developed characters. Two and a half hours may be a long time to watch a film, but I greatly enjoyed watching this complicated web of human stories untangle slowly and carefully before my eyes. The Town did not sag but rather told its story well.
Of course, things are aided by the action scenes. Directed in a very visceral way, these are exciting and well shot but not too overwhelming to take center stage. Further credit is acquired through the acting: Renner shows his Hurt Locker performance was no fluke, the late Pete Postlethwaite made me shiver with his portrayal of the film’s true baddie, and even Blake Lively does a convincing job playing James’ slut sister.
Between the bank robberies, the seemingly decent guys running them, and the rather problematic approach of the law, The Town reminded me a lot of Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Now, that was a film whose influence was way under appreciated! Thing is, The Town is not that far behind.
Best scene: If forced to choose I would pick on the scene where Doug and James have themselves a fight. Doug wants to leave Charlestown but James can’t leave everything his life is based on, so much so he won’t let Doug leave either. Cue some violence.
Technical assessment: The picture on this Blu-ray is quite disappointing, with noise and other effects that probably come from an artistic wish to create a certain dark atmosphere. The sound, however, is quite good (especially during the action scenes).
Overall: Like Gone Baby Gone, The Town is not exactly an inviting postcard from the city of Boston. It is, however, a film that tells a good story very well and well deserves 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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