The Town: Film review

19 October 2010

Written by: Jean Kemshal-Bell

You would usually have to drag me kicking and screaming to a film starring Ben Affleck. Since Good Will Hunting, as writer and cast member, Affleck’s talent has been buried under numerous failed romcoms (Gigli anyone?).

Getting behind the camera for the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone, Affleck showed where his talent really lies—directing. So when I saw that Affleck was directing The Town, I was willing to overlook that he was also the lead.

Set in Charlestown, a neighbourhood in Boston, Massachusetts, at the begging of the film we are told that the working-class suburb has produced more bank robbers than anywhere else in the world. The art of bank robbing is passed down from father to son – like a family business.

The film opens with Doug MacKay (Affleck) and his masked team (including The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as Jem) holding up a local bank. Removing all surveillance footage and leaving no evidence of even the fibre from their clothing, it’s clear we aren’t dealing with amateurs. Still, not all goes to plan and unbeknown to them, bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), manages to see Jem’s neck tattoo.

After the silent alarm goes off, Claire is taken hostage. With no sign of police after their getaway, Claire is released, but they keep her licence, threatening to find her if she talks to the FBI.

A few days later Jem wants to make sure Claire is still shaken, so Doug, knowing Jem can be reckless, does the checking up. And so begins Doug’s very unwise relationship with the fragile Claire. But with the police on his trail, how will he keep his ‘career’ from her? And what if she recognises his best friend’s tattoo?

What unravels next follows the tried-and-true heist formula: Doug follows his imprisoned father’s footsteps after a failed career; an unrelenting detective will stop at nothing to bring them to justice;  and love makes Doug want to give it all up, but not before doing that ‘one’ last job where, frankly, you know shit is about to go down.

Conventional storyline aside, Affleck delivers anxiety-inducing action for the entire 125 minutes. The performances are also better than in your average thriller. Hall is brilliant as the shaken Claire, and Renner is convincing as the out of control Jem. Despite only having a small role, Pete Postlethwaite gives a chilling performance as the unforgiving ring leader, Fergie.

The Town is no Gone Baby Gone, and nor does it try to, but it is exactly what it does set out to be – an engaging, fast-paced thriller.

Jean Kemshal-Bell is an Honours Journalism student at La Trobe University and part of upstart’s editorial team.