Review: THE TOWN (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 6 December 2010

Review: THE TOWN (2010)

RATING: 2.5/5

Based on Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves, actor/director/co-writer Ben Affleck's highly-anticipated follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2007's GONE BABY GONE is certainly worth recommending for -- an epic crime picture in the mould of HEAT (1995). Well, at least judging by its premise and the trailer. But THE TOWN is surprisingly unremarkable and there are only times the movie ignites its promise once in a while before they loses off the spark again.

Charlestown, MA is no stranger for bank robbery in which the particular crime works almost like a family business every now and then. As in this particular, there is Doug MacRay (Affleck) who lives his life as a successful bank robber. He works alongside with his loose-cannon best friend Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) and cronies Gloansy (Slaine) and Desmond (Owen Burke). At the beginning of the movie, Doug leads the way on a masked bank robbery that successfully leaves them with duffle bags of cash but not without a hiccup of troubled situation -- a bank manager by the name of Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) is taken as hostage by Jim after someone hits the alarm during the robbery. She is blindfolded and is later taken away far off from the crime scene, only to be released once the gang manages to make a clean getaway. Unfortunately Jim happens to discover her driver's license that she lives just a few blocks away. He tells the gang that he's going to stalk her to see what she knows. Doug knows Jim's trigger-happy attitude will only make things worse, so he volunteers to take care of the situation against Claire. But it doesn't take long before Doug starts to fall in love with her, even though he knows he's making a big mistake. In the meantime, relentless FBI special agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm, of TV's Mad Men) tries hard to crack the case and the current best source he have is secretly keeping tabs on Claire's whereabouts.

The story here is nothing new at all, and Ben Affleck has no intention whatsoever to craft out a fresh approach to this oft-told crime saga that we have seen many times before. Everything in THE TOWN is a good old-fashioned storytelling device, which is actually not an issue if the movie is an overall attention-grabber. But this is hardly the kind of intense crime picture that comes as close as HEAT, in which Affleck seems to be modeled Michael Mann-like epic scope but without the thematic complexity. At two hours-plus long, the movie is bloated especially with the romance angle between Doug and Carrie, as well as other subplots involving Doug's personal life and his gang that feels painfully routine and very melodramatic.

Still the movie remains an engrossing crowd-pleaser. The acting parts are overall great, with an exceptionally low-key performance by Ben Affleck as the emotionally-conflicted Doug MacRay. Rebecca Hall is wonderful as Claire, while Jon Hamm is compelling as the no-nonsense FBI special agent who stops at nothing to solve his case. But among all of them, Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively shine the most with their respective performances. Renner is particularly frightening as the loose-cannon Jim Coughlin, and he also continues to prove he's a great actor to look out for after scoring a breakthrough performance in 2009's THE HURT LOCKER. On the other hand, Blake Lively, best known in TV's Gossip Girl and two THE SISTERHOOD OF TRAVELING PANTS movies, is noteworthy in her breakthrough performance as the trashy and free-wheeling young mother, Krista.

Technical wise, the movie is first-rate while the star attraction here is no doubt the well-staged heist sequence that rivaled with HEAT. Here, Affleck proves he's very capable when comes to handle action without falling prey to the current trend of quick edits and flashy cuts. The claustrophobic chase scene through the back alleys of Charlestown is especially breathtaking that almost recalled the heyday of the 1970s crime picture, while the intense shootout finale in the Fenway Park as well as the one involving Jim against Adam and the rest of the authorities at the open street are simply spectacular. As dazzling as the way Affleck handles them like a seasoned pro of a skillful action director, he also knows how to craft a nail-biting tension in one crucial scene where Jim crashes a lunch date between Claire and Doug. Doug is especially nervous of his appearance since Claire has once told him she recalled seeing Jim's fighting Irish tattoo at the back of his neck during the bank robbery. After a short exchange of flirtatious talk, Jim excuses himself and about to make a move but Doug is fast enough to hug him goodbye while purposely covered his hand at the back of Jim's neck to avoid Claire for noticing the tattoo. The particular scene is no doubt suspenseful enough to leave the viewers breathless.

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