The Town

Strong performances and gripping production don't make up for this film's lack of redemption.

Ben Affleck’s second directorial
feature, though formulaic in its latter half, never ceases to entertain,
with gripping performances, sleek action sequences and flawless pacing.
Affleck, again, proves that he knows what he’s doing behind the camera,
as he looks to someday become Boston’s answer to Scorsese, which draws
attention to the only major problem with his latest crime drama. Whereas
Scorsese’s films have always been meaningful despite their violent
subject matter, The Town is empty.

Set in Charlestown, “the
bank robbery capital of America,” this adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s
novel Prince of Thieves sets out to achieve the classic crime
story of the gangster who wants out. That thug is Doug MacRay, played
honestly by a scraggly faced Ben Affleck. A former hockey star who nearly
went pro, MacRay is a veteran thief born into a life of crime by his
Irish blood—and father (Chris Cooper), who is spending the rest of
his life in the slammer.

When his gang’s latest heist
has FBI Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm from Mad Men) on his trail and
key witness Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) in his bed, MacRay tells Jem—Jeremy
Renner (The Hurt Locker) with a thick accent, sporting a 'stache—and his Bostonian brothers
that he’s done, moving to Florida. Before he can skip town, though,
complications arise: As Frawley closes in, MacRay’s boss threatens
to kill Claire, and Claire discovers MacRay’s true identity.

Forced to do one last job before
getting free, MacRay finds himself in a mess. Affleck uses this part
of the film to set up liberation for his protagonist; though not realizing
it, he does just the opposite, exchanging justice for vengeance. MacRay
may finally get what he’s after, but it’s not until he punishes
those who wronged him. And the scenes in which this plays out are meant
to please the viewer, as the protagonist murders his victims in style.

Moreover, there’s never a
sense that something bigger is inspiring him. He feels bad for putting
fear in Claire and tries to avoid hurting people on the job, but his
ultimate motivator is to avoid getting caught because he doesn’t
want to end up like his dad. As it plays out, MacRay has every opportunity
to do what’s right, whether by turning himself in, staying loyal to
Jem or rescuing Jem’s sister Krista (Blake Lively). Instead, his
so-called deliverance comes through acts of self-interest.

This skewed portrayal of redemption,
in the end, leaves The Town feeling cold and hollow, which is
a tragedy because it’s such a riveting picture. With honest turns
by every actor (particularly Renner and Hall, who anchor the film), a
carefully balanced tone that uses both subtlety and emotion to grab
the audience, and a realistic backdrop on the streets of South Boston,
The Town
is redemptive for Affleck’s career. Unfortunately, the
same can’t be said for himself in the lead.

David Roark is a film critic
for
RELEVANT and Dallas Morning News. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.

5 Comments

Max

81

Max reviewed…

Thanks for putting words to how I felt after watching it. This is dead on.

84,958

Gdoggydog5 reviewed…

Disagree. Well written. Its 94% on rotten tomatoes and has a great chance to win best picture. Mark my words that it will get nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Renner), and possibly director. The critics, and general audiences are in agreement that this film is the real deal. Entertaining plus well-made and as original as a heist movie can be these days--everyone wins. No disrespect to you, I respect your opinion, but it's almost as if, in searching for redemptive value, or a "moral of the story," so we can differentiate our reviews (i write here also) from the secular reviews, we overlook a lot. It's like a loophole, or a "catch," so to speak to take a generally immoral film that is completely separate from any ideas involving Christianity or Christ, but it's all ok as long as we can pull out some obscure theme thrown in at the end that we can relate the biblical justice. So in the departed, we say that everyone died, and death is the wage of sin, and the wages of the criminal lives they chose to live. Also, the description of Affleck's characters lack of redemption is borderline spoiler, and I want not want to read it, if I hadn't seen the film a a couple weeks ago, so I would be careful on that. Since we don't give star ratings, the general feeling of this review is that it's a sub par film, because of the lack of "redemption," but I think if we asked you, what you really believe is that it was a very film, in which you didn't like the morals, and if that's the case I think you should make it a little more clear that artistically and as far as entertainment value, this was a great movie, and lightly explain that the lack of a solid moral message (just like 99% of the movies we view) was disappointing to you. I would spend about one line stating that, if it were me. Because it comes off as a generally negative review to me that would be "rotten" on rotten tomatoes. But, really, my only quibble with having the morality tied in to how you review the film is that there should be no lukewarm. One path should be chosen. Either we take films and completely discuss them on their moral, redemptive value and in relation to Biblical principles and critique the morality of the film, while simultaneously pulling out any positive discussions that could be pulled out to discuss with our friends who may not be Christians... and we throw in one line or paragraph basically about the quality of the film, at the end. Or we simply discuss the film and how good it was, without having the morality effect whether or not the film gets a good rating. At most, being honest and telling folks it was a good film, and just giving them a brief warning or even a separate paragraph explaining that the film lacks any redemptive value. And I actually did find redemptive value in the film in the justice and the punishment of sin and the violent lifestyle that they lived. The film accurately portrayed than if you live that lifestyle, your playing russian roulette with your life and your freedom, and, just like in real life, some people, went down hard, and others got away with it....for now... its only a span of a few weeks in their life. Who knows what would have happened for the rest of them down the road. But in any case, what kind of redemption would these characters have, outside of Christ that would be worth touting? If characters do have a self-redemption, all it teaches and that we can redeem ourselves and get genuine meaningful change and transformation, outside of Christ, which is contrary to Christianity, and just as dangerous, if not more, as just being a completely immoral film with no positive message. My point is, I don't think we should expect too much from rated R films in Hollywood. Very few movies are actually worth being mentioned for somewhat of a positive message. Some films with SOME value that come to mind are: Remember the Titans, The Blind Side, Up, The Book of Eli (minus its graphic violence), and so on. But other than a very select few, almost no films will ever have anything worth talking about and it's somewhat ridiculous to essentially state that the reason the film was immoral is because it's lack of a positive message when the film was laced with profanity, the Lord's name in vein, several scenes of graphic unnecessary sex and nudity, graphic sexual dialog, very dysfunctional relationships filled with anger, hatred, and selfishness, pervasive violence and violent behavior, heavy drug use and references, and so on and so forth. The film was a portrait of people living lifestyles that are sinful and in complete rebellion to God. I understand that if you want to make a film like this, it should be realistic and gritty, but it goes over bored, and the only thing that could redeem a film like this or most 99% of the movies we review is if one of these gritty characters makes a complete turnaround that is directly attributed to Christ. But, instead, when a character is "redeemed," it is always due to self, and when it is attributed to God, it is spit upon, because the redeemed characters, like Affleck was somewhat supposed to be, don't drink, or do drugs anymore, but of course, they always still have sex before marriage, and are cussin, and smokin cigs. And im not being legalistic, but im saying unless a film is talking about redemption from Christ, why even bother with having the morality of the film play such a big part in the review and the overall grade of the film? Because it's morality, and all of the other films that we try to full fake Christ less morality from, are bankrupt and have none.

Sorry for the tangent. This is not addressed to you, so much as myself, and many other people, or Christians who do this. I have been thinking about it a lot lately and am changing my style because of it.

I did however, think, it was splendidly written and aside from what I mentioned, point were clear, concise, and spot on. Keep up the good work, but if anything I said made a crumb of sense, keep it in mind as food for thought. If not, it's all good baby, keep your head up and your completely welcome to critique my next review on here, if you see anything worth noting.

84,958

Anonymous reviewed…

Yeah, i have no interest in watching this. They showed the whole movie in trailer.

84,958

Darren Sombke reviewed…

I think I'm getting what the reviewer was saying. Sounds a lot like how annoyed and angry I got at the movie American Beauty a few years ago which won the Academy award for best picture. At the same time I contrasted it's lack of positive message with Magnolia which was an amazing and profound film which attributed it's turn around to essentially an act of God. Other quality and disturbing movies that I found redemptive were Grand Torino and There Will be Blood.

84,958

Chester Branch reviewed…

They pitched this film as Heat meets The Departed.

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