Ben Affleck shows his talent in The Town
Ben Affleck is a lot like a mediocre basketball player who becomes a successful coach. He may not be able to dunk, but he can certainly create some winning plays. In The Town, he shows us that his skills as a writer and director can elevate the game of an often-ridiculed actor.
The film, directed and co-written by Affleck, tells the story of Doug MacRay, a member of an infamous group of bank robbers in blue-collar Charlestown just outside of Boston. He’s assisted by hotheaded best friend James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert “Gloansy” Magloan (Slaine) and Desmond “Dez” Elden (Owen Burke) as they rob armored trucks and banks all over town. Things get complicated when they take a hostage at one bank, Rebecca Hall as Claire Keesey. Doug, the brains of the bank robbing operation, puts Chaire under surveillance to make sure she doesn’t give FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) any information about her captors. During the course of his observations, he begins interacting with Claire and eventually falls in love with her, hiding his true identity from her. She melts his cold heart and he wants out of his life of crime. Of course, James is vehemently opposed to this and keeps convincing Doug to do just a few more jobs for crime leader, The Florist, played by Pete Postlethwaite. Doug’s criminal side and romantic side clash and things start to go down hill for the entire gang, culminating in a robbery-gone-wrong at Fenway Park.
I’ve always been on the fence about Affleck as an actor. While I wouldn’t go as far as South Park, I think it’s fair to say that his skills pale in comparison to best bud Matt Damon. What Affleck showed us with Gone Baby Gone is that he’s a much better writer and director. The Town further solidifies that because it uses rather common character types, but manages to weave a story that is gritty and emotionally charged.
Several films contain a smart guy who’s better than his lowlife friends and low-income surroundings, but Affleck paints Doug with more complexity than the average bad boy with a heart of gold. Likewise, the hot-tempered best friend who keeps dragging the hero down is not unusual to see in movies, but the friendship between James and Doug seems to have more layers than just being crime accomplices. The plot itself is not unlike other films that involve an assailant getting too emotionally invested with his victim, but there are original turns that build tension as you wonder when things will snap and Claire will learn that Doug was one of the people who abducted her.
While The Town lacks the outstanding intensity of a film like Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, it still keeps you invested in the story and the characters. With Gone Baby Gone, Affleck proved his directing skills and he continues to make similar rough stories with dark turns interesting in The Town.