Film review: The Town | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Film review: The Town

Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner
Running Time: 123 minutes
Certificate: 15
Released: 24th September

The Town, Ben Affleck’s second outing as director, is many things: it is a cinematic tour de force; it is cops and robbers on a citywide scale; it is the Boston version of Heat. But most importantly, it is a fantastic way to spend two hours and a fiver, so head to your local multiplex because this is a bloody good film.

Like Affleck’s first film, the fantastic Gone Baby Gone, this is a firm entry in the crime genre and specifically, it joins the ranks of recent Irish-American gangster flicks such as The Departed, Mystic River and Blown Away.

The film begins with a bank robbery. Four bank robbers led by Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) pull off a successful heist, whilst temporarily taking Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall - Frost/Nixon, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as a hostage. Unfortunately, they are unsure whether she can identify them. MacRay, therefore, follows her to find out what she knows. A chance encounter, however, means that they unwittingly begin a relationship. Meanwhile, FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is closing in and trying to catch MacRay red-handed.

The Town is a showcase of stellar acting. Affleck may have taken the lead for himself this time but he reserves all of the scene-stealing supporting roles for a mixture of newcomers and veterans. Therefore, you get television graduates such as Mad Men’s Hamm and Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively cast in career-turning roles, respectively, the chief antagonist and a drug-addled mother.

Chris Cooper (Amercan Beauty, The Kingdom) also appears for one scene as Affleck’s father, and Pete Postlethwaite brings suitable menace to the neighbourhood part-time florist, part-time gangster. Thankfully, he gets more to sink his teeth into than he did in Inception.

Particularly notable is man-of-the-moment Jeremy Renner, fresh off the back of The Hurt Locker, who would single-handedly steal the movie if the bar had not been set so high by the rest of the cast.

Goodfellas had Joe Pesci, The Dark Knight had Heath Ledger, Jaws had a big-ass shark and The Town has Jeremy Renner. He is the proverbial loose cannon,and his scenes brim with tension. When his character stumbles across MacRay and Keesey on a date, you will be reminded of any - and every - Hans Landa scene in Inglourious Basterds. This is edge-of-your-seat stuff. The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor goes to...

It is testament to Affleck’s Oscar-winning writing skills and his sophisticated direction that he can attract such a wish list of acting talent. If Gone Baby Gone was his Reservoir Dogs, then this is his Pulp Fiction. The scale is bigger, the stakes are higher and the budget has multiplied. The Town gets big set pieces – bank heists, car chases, shoot outs – and each is brilliant. Affleck was clearly paying attention to Michael Bay during Armageddon.

Still, originality seeps into everything: the bank robbers wear an array of bizarre masks, they nuke CCTV tapes in the microwave, they soak mobiles in the candy bowl, they release Keesey onto a beach and tell her to “walk until you feel the water on your toes”... and that’s just the first ten minutes.

Admittedly, Ben Affleck is not Michael Mann just yet. There are corny “when I was a kid” moments and even more corny criminal-with-the-heart-of-gold moments. But these are minor quibbles. If he isn’t Michael Mann just yet, he is certainly getting there.

This is top-notch film-making: exhilarating, epic, unmissable and very well put-together. Whether you’re a hardcore cinephile or an Orange Wednesday popcorn-muncher, this is the film for you.


28th September 2010 at 1:03 pm