Friday, September 17, 2010

Movie Review: 'The Town'

Doug (Ben Affleck) and his friends are armed robbers from the Boston suburb of Charlestown.  As the film begins the gang, dressed in snazzy skeleton costumes, are pulling a major bank heist. To insure a safe getaway, they take bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Claire is eventually set free, but Doug's right hand man Jem (Jeremy Renner) worries that she might identify them. Doug promises to look into the matter and find out what Claire knows. This being a movie, that leads to Doug and Claire becoming romantically involved. Meanwhile the FBI, led by Agent Frawley (John Hamm) is closing in on the robbers.

As the premise for a B gangster movie, that would probably work. There's already a good cast here. Just bring in a director with a strong sense of style to help smooth over the generic plot, and you'd be okay. But that's not how Affleck, who also co-wrote and directed, approaches the material. He acts and directs with a dramatic intensity the screenplay simply doesn't warrant. It all leads up to a conclusion that's supposed to be profound and moving, but instead feels pat and unearned because the film never gives us any compelling reason to care about these characters or believe in the central romance. There are some good performances, and the heist scenes are gripping and well orchestrated. But despite all of Affleck's straining for something more, The Town falls well short of its mark. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.

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