the-town-movie_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

There’s supposed to be a town in Boston where robbery is big business and the business is passed down from father to son.  This town is called Charlestown and not only is robbery its stock-in-trade; it’s also the way of life for many residents, who have it down to a science, making sure to cover all their tracks.
That, at least is the premise of the new movie, The Town, a good heist film.

Enter native Bostonian Doug MacRay, played by Ben Affleck, who also directs the film. He puts the spotlight on the people who keep the business going.

MacRay, James Coughlin (played by Jeremy Renner), Albert Magloan (Slaine), and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke) are the next generation of robbers. They pull off job after job and never seem to get caught, kind of like another summer bank heist film, Takers.  But, just as for all heist films and, indeed, real life, there’s a weakness in the group and FBI Agent Adam Frawley (John Hamm) is going to expose it and use it to his advantage.

MacRay, the mastermind of the group, has the good luck, or misfortune of falling in love with a potential witness, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall).

Affleck, who also wrote the script, with help from Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard,  has put together a film about the supposedly simple life of robbing banks and armored trucks and getting away with it.

He also explores how this lifestyle affects the people involved, such as girlfriends and wives, many of whom end up broken-hearted or strung out on drugs and with a child they don’t want.  It’s a bleak outlook for the residents of Charlestown, Mass. 

Affleck as McRay shows a surprising performance as the protagonist who happens to be a cold-blooded killer and thief. 
He has no problem walking into the boss man’s shop and threatening him, while telling him where he can find him.  It takes some kind of guts to be Doug MacRay and Affleck’s got what it takes.

Hamm as Agent Frawley is kind of a meanie.  Even though Hamm represents the good guys in this film, he’s so mean that the audience actually roots for Affleck and company to get away with their crimes. 

Renner’s James is a loose cannon.  He is so diabolical and crazy that you wonder how he was let out of prison.  Surely someone who shoots people at will shouldn’t be mingling with regular citizens.  But that just goes to show you: Renner is so good, he’s bad.

Hall plays type as the stuffy girl who sees the good in everyone and trusts everyone.  She is the type of character who ends up getting kidnapped.  Hall is the best actress for the part.  Now that she’s played the naïve chick, more than one time (as in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona), it’s time for her to branch out and flex her acting talent.

Blake Lively surprisingly gives a good performance as Krista Coughlin, James’ sister and one of those women who ends up heart-broken and strung out on drugs with a child she doesn’t want.  It’s a total 360 degrees from her character on Gossip Girl

Other actors of note are Pete Postlethwaite as Fergie Colm, the guy running the show behind-the-scenes, and Chris Cooper as Stephen MacRay, Doug’s dad, who’s in prison for the same things that his son is doing,

The Town is a good watch. It’s well written, with a seamless plot and a tidy ending.  Scenes such as the car chase are well crafted. And Affleck makes sure to pay homage to the city, itself, with its good, bad and indifferent. 

If I were a betting woman, I would wager that The Town will be nominated for at least one Oscar, for directing.  Affleck has come a long way since his early days as an actor in Good Will Hunting, which he also co-wrote with best pal, Matt Damon. He has obviously worked very hard to get where he is and movie-goers must be anxious to see what he has next.  For all I know, Affleck could be the next Clint Eastwood.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at