The Town

We’ve all heard stories about people who have worked at one job, or one type of job, for decades who suddenly decide to do something else.  I don’t think I have that kind of courage to give up a steady job in an industry I know to follow a new path or passion; however, I must say I admire the nerve of those who do.  There are, of course, those who made the wrong choice of a career all those years ago and realize their error, but circumstances keep them from making a move.  In extreme cases, those circumstances are threats of death against themselves and their loved ones from those who wish to maintain the status quo.  That’s the situation in this weeks’ movie, “The Town.”

A four-man team of bank robbers from the Charlestown section of Boston, led by Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), works like a well-oiled machine.  They plan each job meticulously and with attention to overlooked details, like spreading bleach on anything they touch to obliterate any stray fibers or DNA.  During the robbery of the Cambridge Merchants Bank, branch manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) is forced to open the safe at gunpoint.  Another member of the gang, Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), gets agitated when he hears over a police scanner the team carries that a silent alarm has been tripped and slams his rifle butt into the head of the assistant manager.  As he does this, his mask rides up his neck, exposing his “Fighting Irish” tattoo that Claire sees, but none of the gang is aware of this.  As insurance, Jem kidnaps Claire in case police chase them.  None follow, so Claire is released unharmed but Jem keeps her driver license.  Claire is questioned by FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) who is trying to bust up the bank robbery ring.  Claire doesn’t mention the tattoo so she won’t be called to testify if there’s a trial.  Jem thinks he should pay Claire a visit at her home to make sure she doesn’t cooperate with the police, but Doug says he’ll handle it.  Following Claire to a Laundromat, Doug begins a conversation with Claire and asks her out.  Claire tells Doug about the robbery and how she’s been affected by it.  Doug begins to have feelings for Claire and continues the relationship even as the gang pulls an armored car job.  Doug wants to leave town with Claire and get away from his past, but the gang’s boss, a flower shop owner named Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite), threatens Claire if Doug isn’t involved in the robbery of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, that could net the crew a huge payday of over $3-million.

“The Town” is a complicated story told in a very understandable way.  My synopsis didn’t even cover Jem’s sister Krista (Blake Lively) who has been Doug’s lover for several years and has a small child that might be Doug’s, Doug’s dad Stephen (Chris Cooper) who’s in prison for killing two armored truck guards and Doug’s mom who’s been gone since he was six.  There are numerous story threads running through the film but it isn’t busy or overstuffed with information.  We do get a rush of clarifications as the movie approaches its end, but again, it never feels like we are being buried under an avalanche of plot points.  The juggler keeping all these balls in the air is the star and director Affleck.  As he proved in 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone,” Affleck can tell a complicated story yet keep it simple.  He also has an affinity for his home state of Massachusetts as both of his directorial efforts have been set there, specifically in the neighborhoods of Boston.  The thick accents, and the use of well known locales like Fenway Park, ground the film in a believable reality.  Unfortunately, those accents also make some of the dialog unintelligible, but my ear isn’t tuned to the native Bostonian lilt. 

Aside from the accents, I had a problem with the ending.  It felt too neat and tidy considering the messy business that precedes it.  I was also able to predict some of the events leading up to that ending.  While this isn’t a fatal flaw it did diminish the overall emotional impact of the movie, making the last 10 minutes very average compared to what comes before.

“The Town” is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.  Several people are shown getting shot with a couple of rather graphic head wounds on display.  There are a couple of sex scenes and both are very low key with the kind of nudity you could see on a public beach.  The drug use is brief and shown in an overlapping montage.  Foul language is common throughout the film.

“The Town” is a story of dysfunctional relationships and misplaced loyalties where the family business of crime is passed down from generation to generation.  Breaking the cycle in that environment is difficult, but having the courage to try makes Ben Affleck’s character a hero, whether he succeeds or not.  Despite a so-so ending, this movie definitely succeeds in telling a compelling story.

“The Town” gets four guitars out of five.

An animated tale, a long awaited sequel and a revenge comedy are all begging for your attention this week.  Select the next movie I see and review.

Legend of the Guardians:  The Owls of Ga’Hoole—Winged warriors embark on a journey to save the Owl Kingdom.

Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps—Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gecko, emerging from a lengthy prison stint into a much harsher financial world than the one he left.

You Again—Kristen Bell heads home for her brother's wedding, only to discover that he's marrying her hated high school arch-nemesis.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently playing in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
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