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With: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine, Owen Burke, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper, Dennis McLaughlin, Corena Chase, Brian Scannell, Kerri Dunbar, Tony V., Isaac Bordoy
Written by: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard, based on a novel by Chuck Hogan
Directed by: Ben Affleck
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 123
Date: 09/08/2010

The Town (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

For the Love of Boston

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Not too long ago, Ben Affleck suffered the wrath of the critics, appearing in one turkey after another and very nearly hounded out of Los Angeles as the worst actor alive. In reality this was nothing more than bad choices, bad luck and bad timing, as Affleck proved in 2006 with his spot-on supporting performance in the underseen Hollywoodland. In 2007, he changed tracks and wrote and directed his debut feature, Gone Baby Gone, which was one of the best offerings in a very fine year. Now Affleck follows up with his second directorial effort, The Town, based on Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves. This one is a little more pedestrian in the story department. Happily, Affleck more than makes up for it with his handling of rich details, his skill with actors and his pure love for the city of Boston.

Affleck stars as Doug MacRay, a lifelong resident of Charlestown, an area of Boston that apparently breeds bank robbers as well as broken homes. Doug's best pal is the slightly explosive James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), and Doug occasionally sleeps with James' slutty sister (Blake Lively). Together with two other friends, Doug and James make up a skilled crew of successful bank robbers, wearing disguises and completely covered up so as to avoid leaving DNA samples behind. The film begins as they flawlessly pull off their latest job -- flawlessly except that a bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), trips the silent alarm. They kidnap her, threaten her, and drop her off at the beach. Later, Doug decides to spy on her for a bit and winds up forming a relationship with her. This is bad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, she has already gone to the FBI, and secondly, she spotted the tattoo on the back of James' neck during the robbery.

Then comes the second job. Doug doesn't feel quite right about it, but James demands that they go ahead, and -- of course -- something goes wrong, and the gang now has a murder rap on their heads. Doug decides to skip town with Claire, but of course he's in too deep. The local job planner/fence (Pete Postlethwaite) threatens his friends and family if he leaves. The "last big job" involves Fenway Park, and if you've seen this kind of movie before, you know how it's going to turn out. Happily, Affleck has some respect for the material and elevates it past a "B"-level action movie. The shootouts have a dire weight to them, rather than just a visceral thrill. Likewise, even his conversation scenes come to life thanks to their settings: a bar, a graveyard, a community garden. The movie conjures up an entire history and life for these characters, and they live and breathe beyond the borders of this creaky old story. In fact, The Town is a good example of just how a fresh director can make even the most tired material work like new.

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