Monday, 8 August 2011

The Town

I’ve certainly seen some laudable films where the city of Boston has been used as a backdrop including Ben Affleck’s directing debut Gone Baby Gone (2007). Based on a crime novel written by Dorchester born Dennis Lehane it’s about two local private detectives Patrick Kenzie (played by Affleck’s brother Casey) and Angela Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) who are assigned to investigate the kidnapping of a four-year old girl. This movie had an authentically believable plot that tackled the subject of child abduction and police corruption with a great deal of candour.

Director Ben Affleck.
Ben Affleck’s latest project finds him in the director’s chair, as well as in front of camera, for the first time. The Town (2010) is again based on a local crime novel, The Prince of Thieves written by Chuck Hogan and co-scripted by the busy Affleck. The film starts with the statement “There are over 300 bank robberies in Boston every year. And a one-square- mile neighbourhood in Boston, called Charlestown, has produced more bank and armoured car robbers than anywhere in the U.S” which sets the tone for our story. Doug MacRay (Affleck) following in his incarcerated father Stephen’s footsteps (a great cameo from the reliable Chris Cooper) is the leader of a gang of ruthless robbers. His partners in crime includes best friend James ‘Jem’ Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in The Hurt Locker 2009) a psychopath with a dangerous and deadly temper. Things do not quite go to plan while attempting their latest bank robbery, after beating the assistant manager near to death with the butt of his automatic weapon Jem takes a hostage, the bank manager Claire Keesey (London born actress Rebecca Hall). When they discover she lives in Charlestown, Jem gets nervous and wants to check out what she might have seen. Feeling it unwise to let his friend do the investigating Doug takes charge. He seeks out Claire, who has no idea that their encounter is not by chance or that this stranger is one of the men who terrorized her only days before. This encounter with Claire leads Doug into dangerous territory and his relationship begins to threaten his loyalties. Forced into one final heist by local crime lord Fergie Colm (Pete Postlethwaite’s penultimate performance) and with the FBI, in the form of Agent Frawley (Mad Man’s Jon Hamm) getting ever closer Doug has to make some life affirming decision’s.

I would agree with critic Philip Kemp when he say’s that it’s a lesser work which lacks the complexity and moral ambiguity of his directorial debut, I also think Affleck tries two hard on the romance level spoiling what could have been a good film with an unnecessarily sentimental ending. It’s a passable crime drama with all the normal hoist cliché’s but where it succeeds most is in fostering a feeling of homegrown authenticity, obviously there has been a lot of research done and it was a good move to involve local people in the cast. It’s not Heat (1995) but it’s worth a look.

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