“The Town”, based on the novel “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan, is Ben Affleck’s second successful attempt at directing, after 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” The movie takes place in a small town – only one square mile to be exact – called Charlestown. Charlestown is a suburb of Boston, and holds the highest bank robbery crime rate in the USA with more than 300 robberies per year.
Ben Affleck also acts in this film. His character, Doug, heads up a four-man bank/armored truck robbery team. “The Town” is just like any other heist movie, including last month’s “Takers.” I fear this theme is becoming all too common and predictable. But, what makes “The Town” stand out from the others is in between all the car chases, shoot outs, bank robberies and fast-paced action, there is a romantic love story that develops. And not just any love story. A love story between Doug and his victim.
During another routine bank heist, the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), is asked to open the vault. When someone presses the silent alarm, they take her hostage, drive several miles and drop her off at a beach, unharmed. However, the robbers are nervous that she may have seen James’ (Jeremy Renner) neck tattoo and could identify him in a lineup. So, Doug keeps tabs on her by camping out at her house and following her. When they “accidentally” bump into each other at a laundromat, they strike up conversation and a relationship develops. Because they were wearing Halloween masks during the robbery, she never knows she is falling for the man that robbed her bank, held her hostage and then dropped her off in the middle of nowhere hands-tied and eyes-covered.
Doug decides that he’d prefer to return to a normal life and continue his relationship with Claire. But, the rest of the crew convinces him to do one more heist – their biggest one – at Fenway Park. This offers the longest action-packed shoot-out scene of the entire movie as the other heists are relatively short in comparison.
There are a few humorous moments in the movie to cut the tension. When Claire tells Doug the story of being robbed and taken hostage, she claims she would recognize the robbers’ voices if she ever came into contact with them again. Clearly not so. When Doug apologizes that she had to experience that, she states “it’s not your fault.” Clearly it is. She then proceeds to ask him what he does for work. Little does she know that he robs banks, including her bank, for a living. Other humorous moments are mostly related to all the outfits the robbers have to hide their identity and how well they pull it off: cop, EMT, nuns, etc. They play these parts oh so well.
As “The Town” progresses, you begin to feel sympathy for Doug’s character. He had a rough childhood, with a supposed suicidal mother and a convicted felon of a father (Chris Cooper). He had a chance at a hockey scholarship, but somewhere along the way he turned to drugs and crime. Now, he wants to get out of this life style and get back on solid ground. The audience is rooting for him. We also hope that he and Claire end up together in the end.
While the general concept of this movie is nothing new, “The Town” is entertaining nevertheless. It brings to light how much talent and the multi-tasking skills Mr. Affleck possesses. Not only did Ben Affleck direct and act in this film, he also co-wrote it alongside Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard. While his acting is hit or miss (including in this film with his on/off Boston accent), his directing is a hit. Perhaps he should spend more time behind the camera instead of in front of it.