Saturday, 14 March 2020

Movie review: The Town, dir Ben Affleck (2010)

I was pleasantly surprised by this police procedural, which focuses on a group of bank robbers that includes two working-class men named Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner). It’s kick-ass, with the full range of conventional thriller components – car chases, shoot-outs, panoramic city views taken from a helicopter, suspense, heists – plus romance and politics (the last of these dependent on a link to Irish separatists).

The premise of the movie is fairly simple. MacRay starts stalking the manager of a bank the group had held up. Her name is Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and the two form a relationship that sits dormant throughout the bulk of the movie. There is one excellent scene where, as MacCray and Keesey are sitting at a restaurant table having refreshments, Coughlin rocks up and starts bantering with the woman. The dynamics that evolve between the three help to push the story along. Before, MacCray and Coughlin had worked as a tight unit, but the appearance of Keesey threatens the stability of their relationship.

Change is also brought to bear in the form of John Hamm’s Adam Frawley, an FBI agent who is trying to rein in the thugs. You have to believe in Frawley in order to like MacRay, so Hamm plays his role straight and dry. A fifth wheel for this vehicle is supplied by Pete Postlethwaite as Fergie Colm, the criminal mastermind. He’s the foreign angle and runs a florist’s store in the city. I also loved Blake Lively as Krista Coughlin, Jem’s sister.

The film did well critically but I had never heard of it until someone from Japan mentioned it in passing on Twitter. The writing is particularly fine, though some of the conversations are a bit hard to understand due to wide use of a strong Boston accent. What a find though, this film! 

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