In his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck gives us a grisly look at Boston's underbelly through the eyes of a detective trying to track down a missing child. He brings us back to his hometown for his second turn behind the camera, but this time we see the story from the other side. In The Town, Affleck plays a thief who's ready to throw in the towel on his life of crime.
Doug's decision to go straight is sparked by a bank robbery gone wrong. In a moment of panic, his right-hand man and best friend James (Jeremy Renner) takes bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage when the team flees the scene. After they set her free, Jimmy fears that Claire will remember something and report it to the FBI. Doug promises to take care of the situation himself, but quickly finds himself in hot water when he starts a relationship with Claire. The romance represents hope for a new life, but turning his back on his roots proves to be more complicated than he expected.
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The Town takes a look at the two kinds of people co-existing in Charlestown: the tunies (out-of-place yuppies like Claire) and the townies (those that grew up in the Boston slum). The family that Doug surrounds himself with are what give townies a bad name. His father (Chris Cooper) is serving time for murder, Jimmy has a police record a mile long, and his ex (Blake Lively) is a single mother involved with drugs. A recovering addict himself, Doug is no angel either — but by the end of the film you learn that the difference between a townie and a tunie is not always black and white.
So who's running the town? FBI Agent Adam (Jon Hamm) struggles with a war on crime that's often too big for him; he's constantly outsmarted by Doug's team of skilled thieves, and the more they slip through his fingers, the angrier he gets. The adept script shines through about halfway through the film, when you realize that you're rooting for the criminals to win here. Sure, Ben Affleck's charm is part of the draw, but Hamm's character is so callous that the audience is roped into a moral dilemma of their own.
The movie is seamlessly well-made, cementing Affleck's talent as a compelling storyteller. The love scenes are delicate, the action sequences are well-executed, and the acting is spot-on. Renner gives a standout performance as Jimmy grapples with his bad temper and resentment toward Doug's aspirations. The Town may not be an improvement on Gone Baby Gone, but it's a solid second notch in Affleck's directorial belt.