Review: The Town (2010)
Note: This post contains a portion of a review originally written for CaryCitizen. To read the full review, click here.
Ben Affleck has a strange relationship with his hometown of Boston. It has provided the backdrop for several of his writing and directing efforts, such as Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone. Rather than glamorizing his city, he instead turns his lens on its working class; the thugs, the cops, the disaffected youth. His sophomore directorial effort, The Town, presents the neighborhood of Charlestown as one of dirt, injustice, and drugs. It is a place where crime is a family business and once you’re in, good luck getting out. And yet, one can’t help but get the feeling Affleck loves it. Why else would he keep coming back to this place and these people?
The plot follows Doug MacRay (Affleck), the leader of a group of professional thieves. In the opening scene, the gang successfully robs a bank, but not before the hot-headed Coughlin (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner) takes a hostage. Bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) is released shaken but unharmed, but could she recognize their voices? MacRay stalks her to see if she poses a threat to the group, only to find himself asking her out on a date. It’s a relationship that could prove to be disastrous to everyone involved, especially with Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) turning up the heat.
A romance between a criminal and his hostage that isn’t based on Stockholm Syndrome is not a conceit that should work. She should recognize his voice, or Coughlin’s tattoo. He should look after his own skin and realize courting a witness will inevitably lead to disaster. And yet, somehow, Affleck makes it believable. Perhaps it’s the way he and Hall carry themselves, filled with working class world-weariness yet visibly aching for something more. He longs for escape; she longs for healing. Maybe if they found the right person they could begin anew, even though circumstances have conspired to make a fresh start unlikely. Maybe it’s possible to find happiness even among the streets of Charlestown. Maybe. Affleck grabs on to that glimmer of hope and dangles it in front of us like a master, daring us to reach for something we know couldn’t possibly happen in the real world. Some may find it too unrealistic. I can only say that I fell for the cliché hook, line and sinker.