Sep 22 2010 Fulham Chronicle
Ben Affleck continues his impressive directorial run with this bank heist thriller set in Boston, writes DAMON SMITH
BEN Affleck may be best known as an actor, but the chisel-jawed leading man is steadily delivering his best work behind the camera. He already has an Oscar on the mantelpiece as co-writer of Good Will Hunting and his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone was a gritty adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel that garnered numerous critical plaudits.
For his second feature in the director's chair, Affleck remains on the streets of Boston for a taut heist thriller based on the novel Prince Of Thieves by Chuck Hogan.
The Town is a well-crafted and vivid portrait of a close-knit community of men with a strict code of silence that condemns those who speak out of turn to an early grave.
What the film may lack in originality it makes up for in exhilarating action sequences and strong performances, with Affleck noticeably giving himself the least showy role and allowing his co-stars to chew the scenery.
The film is set in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the one-square-mile neighbourhood that apparently produces more armoured car and bank robbers than anywhere else in the US.
With that in mind, it beggars belief that the cops aren't better prepared to neutralise the threat of the gun-toting thieves who run amok here, but Affleck's film wouldn't run much past 30 minutes without myriad suspensions of disbelief.
Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is doomed to repeat the mistakes of his father Stephen (Chris Cooper), who is serving time in a maximum security prison, as mastermind of a four-strong team of bank robbers comprising trigger-happy best friend Jem (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy (Slaine) and Desmond (Owen Burke).
On their final job, Jem takes bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage, releasing her once they are safely away from pursuing cops.
Fearing that the terrified woman may identify them, Doug engineers a meeting in a laundrette and slowly develops an attraction to Claire, who has no idea that she is falling in love with the man who pointed a gun at her head hours earlier.
Meanwhile, FBI Special Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) treads on the toes of Boston Police Detective Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) to apprehend the thieves and bring down money man Fergie Colm (Pete Postlethwaite).
The Town cranks up the tension as Doug struggles to keep his affair with Claire secret from Jem and the posse.
Once the apparent betrayal comes to light, it ignites a powder keg of emotions that rocks the neighbourhood to its foundations.
Affleck's (anti) hero is bland next to scene-stealers Renner and Postlethwaite, but in his capacity as director, he makes light work of the two-hour running time and energises the set pieces, including a protracted car chase through labyrinthine alleys.
The only surprise is how long it takes Affleck to reach the resolution we can see coming a mile off.