At one point in The Town, Doug MacRay gazes upward at an airplane jetting through the sky, signifying the possibility of life beyond small-town Boston. But the image is as fleeting as the lives of the bank-robbing bandits the film portrays, and it seems as though MacRay (played by a melancholy Ben Affleck) is in this town to stay.
The film is based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, and is yet another addition to the glut of recent Boston crime flicks. The plot centres around MacRay and three other members of his Charlestown crew as they scuttle across Boston plundering the weak spots of various financial institutions. But the film does not rely on detailed and intricate heists in order to woo the audience. Rather, it focuses on the relationships that surround and develop from the crimes.
MacRay develops a bond with Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a young bank manager suffering from post-traumatic stress after MacRay and his masked crew rob her bank. But while the relationship is predictable and dull, its dramatic pull is heightened by MacRay’s high-stakes job and his fellow thieves.
MacRay’s close ties to his long- time friend and fellow thief James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) are much livelier than the one he has with his love interest, but unfortunately, it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves throughout the movie. Nonetheless, a number of provocative subplots unravel, some of which involve MacRay’s relationship with his parents and his ties to a florist with ulterior motives.
What ultimately makes The Town’s two-hour running time fly by are the action-packed heist sequences. Though the car chases and gunfights are not as elaborate as you might expect, the scale heightens the sense of immediacy and personal connection with the characters.
This is Ben Affleck’s second picture as a director, and though not as strong and as moving as his debut, Gone Baby Gone, it marks a new chapter in Affleck’s Hollywood identity. From his abrasive Mallrats days to his appalling role in Gigli, Affleck, who has managed to remain a card-carrying Bostonian, has secured himself a solid place in the business as a man true to his town.