The Gustavian Weekly

If you look past the masks, you may be surprised by The Town. | The Gustavian Weekly

By Kevin Dumke Staff Writer | September 24, 2010 | Variety

Hello Gusties and welcome back! I hope everyone had an enjoyable summer and is keeping up with the work now that class is back in session. Personally, I decided to commence procrastinating early this year and went to see The Town instead of doing homework.

I am sure you have seen the previews for The Town. Automatic weapons, Ben Affleck, neat masks. Looks kind of like a no-brainer action flick, right? That was my first assessment, too. How pleasantly surprised I was when The Town proved to be a thrilling sensory experience backed by a deep story, filled out by rich characters.

The Town is Ben Affleck’s project through and through. He writes, directs and stars in this heist film set in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood. Seeing Affleck in a starring role gave me pause at first. Affleck was once one of the top blockbuster actors in Hollywood. The late ‘90s and early 2000s were good to him. Then came Gigli, one of the most notorious flops of our generation. The Town marks Affleck’s first leading role in a major blockbuster since. Let me say, he comes through with a spectacular performance.

He stars as Doug MacRay, a gravel-pit grunt and recovering drug addict who robs armored cars and banks in his spare time. Doug comes from the infamous Charlestown neighborhood, where armed robbery is described as a trade passed down from father to son. It just so happens that Doug inherits a rich legacy of robbery and murder from his own father, a brief cameo by Chris Cooper (Bourne Trilogy).

Now Doug runs his own crew of thieves. Doug’s right-hand man is James Coughlin, a slightly homicidal but steadfastly loyal thug portrayed by Jeremy Renner (Oscar-nominated actor in the Oscar award-winning Best Picture The Hurt Locker).

The depth of the characters in this film is phenomenal. MacRay’s identity crises and the deliciously neurotic Coughlin are only two of the engrossing characters developed by Affleck as a director. The cast is rounded out by Rebecca Hall’s (Frost/Nixon, The Prestige) Claire Keesey, a rattled hostage victim; a driven FBI agent played by Jon Hamm (Mad Men); and Coughlin’s drug-riddled, child-toting sister Krista, played by Blake Lively (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Accepted). The Town is chock full of characters screaming for psychological evaluation.

Yet The Town goes deeper. The action sequences, which will rope in most audience members, are exquisite. While the previews may depict the film as a non-stop thriller, The Town’s deep storyline and characters keep the movie from relying on sheer action to keep the audience’s attention. That being said, The Town makes the bank robbing profession look simply badass. Okay, so the whole killing guards thing is kind of in the con column, but have you seen those masks they get to wear? Watching a firefight between cops and nuns armed with Mac-10s and AK-47s is a scene you will find only in The Town.

The pace of the action in the film is very well crafted. The film blends edge-of-your-seat car chases with heartfelt character development in a seemingly flawless manner. The action builds with the film in a very natural progression that never feels clunky. The final robbery scene was thrilling and probably one of the most entertaining cinematic action experiences I have had in awhile.

Despite all it has going for it, The Town does have shortcomings. Like most heist films, this one falls victim to certain clichés. The shootouts and car chases do seem a bit unrealistic, some of the dialogue feels overly macho, and there may or may not be a slow motion explosion. And of course, there is the unmistakable, overemphasized click-clack sound of guns being loaded.

If you are looking for a movie that allows you to zone out and watch mindless action, The Town is probably not for you. True, there are some pretty explosions and intense gun battles. This movie demands more out of its audience, however. If you want the true experience of this film, it is in the depth of the characters and the plot. I give The Town four and a half out of five stars.