December issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 13 years ago

Ever since appearing in a string of disappointing movies such as Daredevil, Gigli and Surviving Christmas, it seemed Ben Affleck was almost through with Hollywood. But with his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, in 2007, he proved that he was no one-trick pony. The Town, his second feature as a director, reaffirms his talent as he takes a generic heist-driven storyline and turns it into something entirely original. Loosely adapted from Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, the movie has its share of car chases and cop crackdowns, but between the supercharged action sequences, there exist layers of emotional depth and moral complexity.

Affleck stars as Doug MacRay, a veteran thief and resident of Charlestown, a run-down working class neighbourhood of Boston, notorious for its thriving industry of thievery. Doug is the leader of a team of skilled conmen who pride themselves in the fact that, following their heists, they never leave behind even a trace of their identities. However, one bank job goes awry when they are forced to take bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage. She is released unharmed, but Doug’s sociopathic partner-in-crime, Jem (Jeremy Renner) suggests she be dealt with lest she gives the cops a lead on them. But before Jem gets around to it, Doug organises an ‘accidental’ encounter with her at a laundromat, which leads to a relationship — and more complications. An oblivious Claire falls in love with the same man who terrorised her just a week ago and, as a result, Doug is inspired to clean up his life and begins to look for a way to shed his criminal past. It is of course never that simple; the FBI starts to close in on the criminals and Jem begins to develop a suspicion of Doug’s true motives. Eventually, there is a showdown.

Affleck and his co-writers have constructed a strong script and one that develops interestingly with the FBI’s pursuit of the crooks played out parallel with the progression of emotional drama and action. Doug’s hardened exterior and Claire’s intelligent yet vulnerable persona make for intense chemistry. Jeremy Renner, as Doug’s childhood friend, renders a strong performance, as do the other actors in minor parts but with major impact. There is no doubt that this heist movie traverses familiar ground, but The Town remains a thrilling and engaging ride from start to finish that will surely entertain a wide audience with its fast-paced action-drama and forbidden love story.

Watch the trailer here.

This article appeared under the headline “A Crime to Love” in the December 2010 issue ofNewsline.