The Town

I’ll see you again….

this side or the other…

There’s something about Bank Robbers that screenwriters, directors, and producers, as well as audiences just love. From Bonnie and Clyde (1967) to Heat (1995), from Charlie Varrick (1973) to Point Break (1991), and from Dog Day Afternoon (1975) to the just released The Town, movie makers and movie watchers, continue to agree that bank heist films are ever so popular and worth seeing. None of us want to be a victim or present during a bank robbery, but we are quite willing to cough up some dead presidents to watch these goings on either in a movie theater or at home on a DVD.

Ben Affleck, in his sophomore turn as a film director, has given us an entertaining, engrossing, and excellent effort in the bank job genre. Ben not only helmed the film, he also co-wrote the screen-play with Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard, and Chuck Hogan whose novel Prince of Thieves was the source for this movie. Affleck also starred in the film as Doug MacRay leader of a crew whose forte was armed robbery.

MacRay and Jem (Jeremy Renner) along with two other guys one of whom provided the muscle and did the driving, while the other was the technical wizard who disarmed building surveillance and other electronic monitoring, were a good crew. They were smart, tough, and knew how to keep their mouths shut. In fact, Jem did a nine year stretch in prison after a job went south, and he did the time rather than rat out his friend Dougie.

But Jem is a bit of a loose cannon. After doing his prison term he said he wasn’t going back into the can – he’d rather die in the streets if it came down to that. So early on in the film, during the commission of a bank heist, we see the violence that Jem was capable of. He bludgeoned a bank official repeatedly with the butt end of his automatic weapon, and he was the one who grabbed the female bank manager, Claire Keesey, who was portrayed by Rebecca Hall, as a hostage during their escape from the bank.

Renner is a tough guy no doubt. His Boston accent was almost unintelligible at times. But what Renner brought to the party was his steely determination, his character, and his loyalty to the crew. His menace was always present and not always  submerged. Jem as played by Renner had all the subtlety of a cobra.

MacRay, was the more cerebral of the two. MacRay could see a different kind of life in his future, a life that would proceed without knocking off banks. But Dougie was no saint. He grew up with violence and with crime as a way of life. After Dougie’s Mother left the house when he was a kid, and after Doug’s father (Chris Cooper had the role) went to jail for life, Jem’s family took Doug MacRay in and raised him. So Doug and Jem, while not blood brothers, were the next best thing.

Affleck had the look of a someone who grew up on Boston’s mean streets. He had the right sound for a Charlestown kid (Hollywood hadn’t scrubbed all of his accent out of him), and more than anything else,  his  work as an actor in this film was superb. Trust me, you will be rooting for Dougie.

Rebecca Hall is a British actress but you would not have know this to be the case from her performance. She may not have sounded like a Bostonian, but there was no sign of the UK in her work. Her character, the bank manager, was freed unharmed after the hostage situation.

But Jem had concerns about her. She was the only one who might have identified the gang members. So he wanted her taken care of. You see it turns out that she also lived in The Town (Charlestown). Jem was nervous about that. Doug said he’d handle it.

Jon Hamm played the ‘not fucking around’ FBI agent who was on the crew’s trail. I know he’s a star on Mad Men on tv, but I’ve not seen that, so I can’t comment on his performance by means of a comparison. What I can tell you is that he did not do Al Pacino’s Detective Vincent Hanna  from Heat. we didn’t get to know much about his character, other than he was tough, and smart, and most of the time, like Doug MacRay, and like Jem, he needed a shave.

Pete Postlethwaite turns in a stunning performance as a vicious crime boss in Charlestown. His cover was that of a florist, and from the moment we heard his first spoken lines, we knew he was going to be bad. Real bad.

The last character to discuss is Jem’s sister Krista played by Blake Lively. She was a party girl to a degree, but she also grew up in the town. She had a relationship with Doug, even had a kid with him. But marriage wasn’t in the cards for her and Doug. I liked her performance, and you could really  feel her anguish when things didn’t go the way she wanted them to.

There’s your characters that make up the good guys, the bad guys, and even some of the people caught in between. Boston’s Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox (pronounced Sawks) made an appearance as the setting for the film’s climatic heist. We saw more than we ever wanted to see of the innards of Fenway Park aka Boston’s Cathedral.

I’ve got to give Affleck kudos for the masterful directorial effort that resulted in this fine film. He can do action with the best of them. He can do car chases, and he even looked good with his weapons blazing when he was onscreen instead of being behind the camera.

So far, I have to say that The Town is the best film I’ve seen this year.

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