Life in Boston ain't no joke. In The Town, Ben Affleck's second feature film as writer-director, audiences are given a brutal, unyielding look at crime in blue-collar Boston. While its action sequences are top-notch, the drama leaves audiences wanting.
The film, based loosely off Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves, stars Affleck as Doug MacRay, a gruff man who leads a team of professional bank robbers. Together, they live in a tough neighborhood of Boston known as Charlestown. According to a series of statements at the opening of the film, the neighborhood is notorious as a hub of professional thieves.
Their first robbery, which is one of merciless savagery, immediately sets the tone of the film. The team storms into the bank, wearing terrifying skull masks and wielding assault rifles. People aren't just told to lie down; they are thrown to the ground and beaten if they don't comply quickly enough. The torrent of shouted orders and threats doesn't stop until everyone is under their control. On the way out they grab the bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), taking the woman as a hostage. When MacRay begins to have feelings for her, their worlds spiral out of control.
The Town puts audiences in a difficult position; they have nobody to cheer for. MacRay and his team (which includes The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner) are ruthless. Law enforcement, led by FBI special agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is no better. When Frawley's men raid a local apartment for answers, they mirror the very actions of the bank robbers: Doors are kicked in, terrified men and women are thrown around like rag dolls and threatened with violence. There is no negotiating, only fear.
The action in The Town is breathtaking. It is swift and relentless. There are no silver screen heroes here; instead, people on both sides of the law are constantly in genuine danger of succumbing to the chaos around them. In his previous effort, Gone Baby Gone, Affleck proved he knows how to stage scenes of violence and tension. Here, he takes that skill and runs with it, presenting scenes which threaten to swallow everybody within firing range.
When it comes to drama, however, The Town falls short. While the movie is wonderfully acted, with especially notable performances by Mad Men's Hamm and Gossip Girl's Blake Lively, its slower moments aren't always convincing. The romance between MacRay and Keesey, for example, appears tired and cliché. It's a concept audiences have seen before, and Affleck does little to bring anything new to the table. That isn't to say the film's drama is bad, however. It simply doesn't measure up to the incredible action sequences in the beginning, middle and end of the film.
In his second effort at directing, Affleck films a winner with The Town. It is a film of truly harrowing action and brutality, showcasing Boston at its grittiest. Despite its occasionally flat drama, The Town is one fans of crime thrillers owe it to themselves to see.
Josh Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Arizona State University.