Great action, while it lasts

2011-01-03 00:00

WHILE The Town may be just another heist drama with a blue-collar criminal who becomes a changed man after he falls in love, it is still a great one.

Ben Affleck (director, lead actor and co-writer) proves that he can bite off a lot and still chew. Although it is difficult to top the high bar set by his directorial debut in Gone Baby Gone, Affleck shows that he indeed does have the skill and confidence to bring some originality to the most overused clichés.

The film is an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, and stars Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Armageddon) as Doug MacRay, born and raised in Charlestown, a neighbourhood in Boston.

MacRay embarks on various robberies with his three friends, James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert “Gloansy” Magloan and Desmond “Dez” Elden.

During a bank robbery, in which the four don skeleton masks, Coughlin takes bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige, Vicky Christina Barcelona) hostage. When she’s released, MacRay continues to keep an eye on her. They embark on a relationship with Keesey not knowing about MacRay’s criminal activities.

However, FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is hot on the tracks of the four looters and the truth is soon revealed.

The film begins with a bang and each robbery becomes tenser as the characters get closer and closer to being caught. As the film unfolds, it loses its initial brilliance and almost turns out to be a drag, but it manages to regain its momentum and leaves the audience with an impressive and well-orchestrated end.

Oscar nominee Renner (The Hurt Locker) once again impresses and manages to scoop the limelight despite being surrounded by brilliant performers. Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) also makes an appearance and plays a convincing drug-addicted whore and young mother as Krista Coughlin, James’s sister, even though her role seems to be superfluous.

The Town has already been named as a potential nominee for the Oscar Best Picture award. It masters the formula of the romantic heist, delivers great lines, reveals great cinematic skill and shoots some great acting with crisp action and riveting scenes that are able to hide the film’s flaws, but it is no more than a once-off great watch.

It offers nothing new for avid movie lovers and most of its devices have already been used in other films and with greater skill.

Affleck, however, is definitely a director to keep an eye on.

****

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