“The Town” Movie Review

     The ads for "The Town" make sure you know it is from the studio who brought you "The Departed" and "Heat"' so it comes as no surprise the comparisons to those two films are inevitable.  If you look just at the story, "Heat" will probably come to mind more.  Maybe even a few images of "Point Break" will appear in your mind as well.  With all of these comparisons, does "The Town" stand on it's own as an original work or is it another one of many that retreads the ideas of far better films?

     In his sophomore directorial effort, Ben Affleck does double duty as both director and lead actor.  He is supported by a fine cast which includes "The Hurt Locker's" Jeremy Renner and veteran actor Chris Cooper.  As expected, the plot is one we've seen before.  Doug MacRay (Affleck) and James Coughlin  (Renner) lead a crew who specialize in armored truck and bank robbery.  During one such heist, the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall) is taken hostage and later let go.  While ensuring she is not a loose end, Affleck falls for her and begins to carry on a relationship even with the disapproval of his crew.  Hot on their tail is an FBI task force led by Adam Fawley (Jon Hamm), who seems obsessed with taking down Doug's crew.

     So basically, we have "Heat" in Boston here.  It's a well financed crew against a Robbery task force in a film which features several elaborate heist sequences and gun battles.  Just as in "Point Break", the principal character falls for a girl who threatens to compromise his and his crew's interests ( in Point Break, those interests were those of the FBI).  During the heist scenes you may also be reminded of Point Break because of the masks each man wears.  Watching this film, I seemed to be thinking a lot about other movies and began to wonder if there are original aspects to The Town.

     Having pointed out the film's similarities to others, I must be fair and point out it's originality because there is a lot to like here.  The setting here is key because it's almost like a different world.  In Boston, the neighborhoods look different and the people talk different too (think Fargo) and that sets The Town apart from other films. It is clear Affleck knows how to bring the seedy part of Boston out on film ( he did so even better in "Gone Baby Gone") and this has a major impact.  Just as is the case with good mob movies, The Town presents a history in the neighborhood that goes back for generations.  Key characters are now in prison for committing the same crimes Doug and his crew are doing.  It almost seems to be an inevitable life if you grew up there and  expect to survive.  The acting is excellent and the story builds to an unexpected conclusion.  The action scenes are not at the level of Heat, but what movie has ever reached that height?  I thought the heist and subsequent police vehicle pursuit in the middle of the film was quite gripping.

     Overall, the film certainly owes many better films for it's premise, but it is aptly named because The Town is like no other when you consider its setting and history behind it.  The film stands as a quality entertainment that I don't expect to make any noise come Oscar time, but should be remembered amongst the better crime thrillers.  As a director, Affleck has now proven twice he is well on his way to being one of the best in the business.  His ascension reminds me of Clint Eastwood, who as an A-List actor has developed into an even better filmmaker. For his next project, I hope Affleck leaves the crutch of influential films and truly wows us with something we'll never forget.  Something tells me he is capable of that. GRADE: B