Ben Affleck’s love letter to himself.
After rewatching Heat, I was wanting to see another good bank robber movie. The Town brings the shootouts and large cast, but somewhere it goes a little stray from its superior counterpart.
The Town is about Charlestown, where there are a ton of armored truck robbers, bank robbers, and various other criminal elements. To the film’s credit, it does note that not everyone in Charlestown is a criminal—there just happens to be quite a few.
Doug (Ben Affleck—who also directed the film) and his crew rob a bank and draw the attention of the FBI. The lead FBI agent Adam (Jon Hamm) relentlessly pursues Doug and his crew (does this sound a little familiar?). Now, to complicate things, both Doug and Adam want the affection of Claire (Rebecca Hall). Claire, who was a victim of one of the bank robbers (and was taken hostage) is being spied on by Doug to make sure she doesn’t know anything. Adam is just interested in her because she is attractive. Neither love story really makes a lot of sense, but whatever. It makes for (I guess) an interesting twist.
Despite knowing they are being watching by the FBI, Doug is pressured by his childhood friend Jem (Jeremy Renner) into doing one last score. Doug practically begs crime boss Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite) into letting him out. So of course, things are going to go sideways and we will have lots and lots of action set pieces (well, two really).
The movie is entertaining, and the plot provides enough interesting threads in how the investigation is pieced together to make a fair film. However, there are some serious shortcomings that really drag this one down. First and foremost, this movie is trying to be something more than it is. The characters just aren’t that nuanced, and Affleck seems to be doing a lot of damage to the film in his directing choices.
The FBI agent Adam is perhaps the most perplexing character in the movie. He goes from annoyed professional to ruthless pursuer with no reason. As the movie progresses it becomes increasingly clear that he is supposed to represent the villain, but the only reason for this is so Affleck’s character can look better. The dickishness of Adam to lionize Doug is a cheap trick, and should be called as such.
Further, can crime movies just drop the whole “I don’t wanna” shtick from their characters? The assassin who has to do one last kill. The robber who must do one more score. But, really folks, they just have hearts of gold and just want out. While Jem is an unstable psychopath, he is at least an honest one—he robs banks because he is good at it and wants money. The tackiness of having Affleck just want to go to Florida and be a good person drags the movie down. Also, I’m not an expert on this, but why would anyone want someone on a job that they didn’t want to be in on? What’s to keep them from dicking things up?
Even worse, is that the film actually announces to the characters that they are going to be caught, and they just ignore it. That little plot point flutters away as the characters devolve into their overly formatted genre stereotypes. The movie sacrifices everything for Affleck to come away looking like the good guy—who is also totally smarter and better at everything than the FBI agent.
The movie is okay. While watching the film you will probably like it, but it more or less collapses under any type of critical scrutiny. There are better crime dramas, and specifically better bank robber movies than this. Any movie that has to end with some sappy voiceover that goes way beyond any relevance to any of the actual characters marks a stupid film. As said, this film really wants you to see it as a crime epic. Even with the highpoints, this one is a little too messy. 5/10