Talk of "The Town"

Sept. 20, 2010, 11:35 p.m. | By Stella Bartholet | 10 years, 4 months ago

Bank robber Doug MacRay attempts to escape from his criminal lifestyle after falling in love with a former hostage.

"The Town" is an intense thriller and proves that Ben Affleck("Gone Baby Gone”) is dually talented; he's both a compelling actor and a smart director who knows how to keep an audience captivated. But viewers should not be squeamish or expect a "happily ever after" film, because "The Town” takes the audience on a graphic and sometimes harrowing journey.

The story begins with a bank heist and heart-pounding car chase in Charlestown, a part of Boston home to an inordinate number of robbers. A gang of criminals wearing Halloween masks forces the assistant manager of the bank, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), to open a safe and later takes her hostage. After the robbery, the criminals learn that Keesey lives in their neighborhood and worry that she may be able to identify them. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), a member of the gang, is assigned to follow Keesey in order to make sure she doesn't reveal anything to FBI agents, who are on the gang's trail. Naturally, the two end up falling in love.

"The Town" is reminiscent of "The Departed," a 2006 mafia thriller that won the Oscar for best picture. Both movies keep audiences on the edge of their seats with suspenseful action scenes and both deal with themes of loyalty and betrayal. But amidst the gloom, "The Town" adds some dark humor, making the movie more unpredictable.

This isn't to say, however, that the "The Town" is without fault. The entire storyline depends on an unrealistic coincidence. MacRay's relationship with Keesey begins in a laundromat the day after the robbery. She begins crying and he comforts her. Little does she know, MacRay was one of her captors and Keesey naively agrees to a date, which seems contrived. Still, Affleck and Hall somehow pull off the unrealistic scene and make it almost believable. They have good chemistry, even though their characters couldn't be any more different. Affleck plays a confused criminal who's ready to make a change in his life; he shows a sensitive side to his character. Hall portrays a yuppie who is also confused and sees MacRay as a strong and attractive protector.

The best performance of the film, however, comes from another actress playing a supporting role. "Gossip Girl's" Blake Lively is Krista Coughlin, MacRay's ex-girlfriend, a young, promiscuous mother and drug dealer. Lively is full of sass and zeal one moment, anger and despair the next. She manages to make the character both appealing and pitiful.

Moreover, the cinematography of "The Town" is adequate enough, but not as spectacular as the acting. The action-packed car chases are shot in a way that makes viewers feel they are screeching around corners, spinning and crashing. They are filmed at interesting angles, sometimes as if from the front bumper of a speeding car. In the robbery scenes, there are many shots captured through security cameras, adding variety. But all in all, the cinematography is unremarkable and standard to the action genre. When looking for an escape from the real world, "The Town" is an excellent pick. The movie may not be remembered in 10 years, but it is a great crowd pleaser for the here and now.

"The Town" (123 minutes) is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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