Writer-diector-actor Ben Affleck (left) sets his latest film in his hometown of Boston. (©Warner Bros. Pictures)
“Charlestown, a blue collar Boston neighborhood, produces more bank robbers and armored car thieves than any square mile in the world.”
So begins Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves that inspired the film The Town, starring Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm of AMC’s Mad Men, and The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner.
The Town is filmed in Boston, hometown of director-writer-actor Ben Affleck. Like Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, the cast tries to capture the native dialect, though few get the hang of “paahk the caah,” but at least they tried.
A team of homegrown Charlestown friends runs a thriving grand larceny operation that requires robbing banks and armored trucks while sporting a wardrobe of disguises. The crew includes a Boston cop and a mean old florist who launders the cash. There’s also some tech support to ensure they don’t leave behind DNA or security video. As viewers, we scour the ranks for the whiff of genius, but the team flavor is street thugs who are prone to violence and in way over their heads.
As the film opens, the team is holding up a Cambridge bank where one robber brutally beats a bank officer for hitting the alarm. That’s Jem, played by Renner. He’s the hair-trigger whose crime buddies never know what he might do next. This time Jem takes a pretty hostage—the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall). But the team turns her loose because kidnapping is stiffer than larceny, and apparently worse than assault, considering the bank officer they left oozing on the carpet.
The story revolves around Claire and Doug (Affleck), the ringleader thief. But ya know, no matter how you dress him down, Ben Affleck never passes for the working class. Or a burglar. Or anything that he isn’t. Anyway, Doug trails Claire to find out if she knows any incriminating details to tell the FBI. But Doug becomes involved with Claire. Really involved. And with Claire he’s a kind and sensitive guy. But wait, Doug is the same guy who just terrorized her bank—not that Claire knows this—and really, does Doug (Affleck!) seem like a violent criminal? You don’t need the movie to know the answer. And that, my friends, is what’s wrong with this picture. But wait, my editor instinct suggests an easy fix. Doug should have been the brains behind the burglaries, not the grunt day worker that holds security guards at gunpoint. Now you’ve got yourself a story.
The Town and its fine cast fall short of being all they can be. But don’t write it off on my account. If you like crime thrillers with car crashes, a star-crossed romance, and a fixable script, maybe The Town will work for you. B-
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