"When someone endures an experience like this, there are often residual effects."
'The town' in this sense is Charlestown. Its claim to fame is its high ratio of bank robberies that live in the one square mile neighbourhood. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is a lifelong 'townie;' he feels confident and welcome, and is so. He grew up with talent on the hockey rink before unequivocal circumstances forced him out. His aptitude now is in stealing vast amounts of money, which he does in his spare time when he's not barbecuing with his friends, and visiting his father in prison. His best friend is James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), 'Jem' to his friends. As in 'he is such a...' Desmond Elden and Albert Magloan round out the crew.
The film opens brazenly. Doug and his team are raiding a local financial institution. They are efficient--knowing exactly when the vault opens and shuts. But, Jem gets sloppy. He assaults a manager, turning his face into pulp; another becomes their hostage, a no-no in the looting handbook. The captured woman is Claire (Rebecca Hall) who later becomes involved with Doug as a way for him to keep tabs on the one person who can finger them to their misdeed.
Affleck, it should be noted, is the director as well. He does so expertly. There was a point in time when he seemed to be resting on his laurels from his Oscar winning performance for co-penning GOOD WILL HUNTING with Matt Damon. He became in vogue, starring in ARMAGEDDON, and later Daredevil and the unforgivable GIGLI (during which of course his relationship with Jennifer Lopez was in full, over saturated bloom. This was the unfortunate 'Bennifer' phase where he started slicking back his hair). He first directed the well-received and affecting GONE BABY GONE in 2007, an act which also seemed to mature him as a performer. THE TOWN is paced masterfully. We are delicately invited into these peoples lives, yet also savagely thrust into the action. Through the narrow streets of Boston, and in the bowels of the famous Fenway Park; many points during the film go along at a frenetic, but never out of control rate.
Like every heist film, the plot inescapably leads to whether the gang will get away with it. On their tails are the FBI led by Agents Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver). My one grumble is that each ensuing step of the narrative was a little too choreographed. The first scene with Jem, he encapsulates his character with a fit of rage; we know the consequences to his undertakings. In the end, it's easy to pick out which characters will die, who will turn on allies, or turn the other cheek. Oddly though, I'm not sure it could have been made any better.
THE TOWN is littered with small but extremely satisfying performances. Chris Cooper (THE KINGDOM), Pete Postlethwaite (ROMEO + JULIET) and Blake Lively's (NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU) screen time are all short lived, but they more than make due with what they are given. Doug is searching for a way out. What started as part of the job, quickly turns to something more. His relationship with Claire allows a brief look into unfamiliar territory. Whether this compressed moment morphs into lasting memories relies on Doug and the path he chooses. His decisions will lead to a life in the shadows or his day in the sun.