April 18, 2020

The Town (2010)
Grade: 61/100

Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner

What it's about. Set in Boston. Ben Affleck is part of a small criminal gang with himself as the leader and his best buddy Jeremy Renner as the muscle. Also in the gang are Owen Burke and Slaine. They rob a bank wearing masks and toting assault weapons. Affleck forces bank manager Rebecca Hall to open the vault. They leave with the loot and take Hall as a hostage. They blindfold her, drive her to the beach, and release her unscathed.

After her harrowing experience, Affleck stalks her, to see if she will talk to police. Because it is a movie, he ends up dating her, much to the annoyance of Renner, and Renner's sister Blake Lively, who is raising Affleck's child. Affleck's father, Chris Cooper, is serving life in prison.

Meanwhile, the gang is pressed to do other robberies by local crime boss Pete Postlethwaite and his henchman Dennis McLaughlin. Affleck's illicit activities draw the attention of FBI agent Jon Hamm, who zeroes in on the gang.

How others will see it. Bank job movies tend to do well at the box office, and The Town was no exception, grossing several multiples of its budget. The film was praised by the critics as well, earning a pile of festival circuit nominations. Pete Postlethwaite even received a BAFTA nod for his small role, likely because he passed away a month before the ceremonies.

At imdb.com, the user votes are many (337K) and high (7.5 out of 10). They are fairly consistent across all demographics, though older women grade it slightly lower than younger men. The user reviews lavish praise on Ben Affleck, who was the director, lead, and co-writer. Viewers like the characters, dialogue, story, and acting. Even Blake Lively is praised.

As always, there are complainers who state that they've seen it all before, such as the guy who wants to leave the crime organization but keeps getting pulled back in. Others mention how improbable it all is that Affleck causes such mayhem without getting harmed or nabbed. Nobody finds it remarkable that the pretty young bank manager does not have a husband or boyfriend, or any friends at all.

How I felt about it. You know it's a movie when Ben Affleck gets away with everything: two bank robberies, an armored truck robbery, gunning down a crime lord and his right hand man, shagging the best witness to his bank robbery, leaving a note on the top FBI agent's windshield, and watching his girlfriend from a window across the street call him when the area is swarming with law enforcement who are there only to look for him.

Besides the improbability of Affleck's great escape, the film has a second liability. Are we supposed to root for him? Is he and Rebecca Hall actually Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue, the "heroes" from the Steve Miller song "Take the Money and Run"? That would turn Jon Hamm into Billy Mack, the ineffectual detective who "makes his living off of other people's taxes."

True, the other members in Affleck's criminal organization are much less lucky than he is. Still, I am not keen on unemployed murderers getting away with everything. Maybe the old Production Code wasn't all bad, after all.

The standout performance here is from Jeremy Renner, who channels Sean Penn. Certainly, he deserved his Oscar and Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination. One has to also give credit to the story, screenplay, and direction. It's convincingly gritty. Beautiful Ben did good, if only because his brother Casey never shows up. It's always nice to see Chris Cooper in a movie, and the Halloween masks used during the stick-ups are admittedly cool. Jon Hamm was okay, too.