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Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 08:52 am

Intriguing characters populate The Town

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Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner star in The Town.

Taking a cue from the classic Warner Brothers’ gangster films of the ’30s and ’40s, The Town contains themes that are part and parcel of the genre – precarious familial bonds, divided loyalties and a thief yearning for a fresh start. Directing for the second time, Ben Affleck gives these elements a hard-edged modern quality as the crooks in the spotlight are ruthless and hardened before their time, products of an environment that forces them to compromise themselves at an early age.

Doug (Affleck) is the leader of a four-man crew that specializes in bank jobs in which they wear elaborate masks and costumes. During their latest heist, his impulsive partner Jim (Jeremy Renner) takes Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Realizing later that she lives near them, Doug decides to keep an eye on her and unexpectedly falls in love. This causes tension among the crew but may be the lucky break FBI agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) needs to catch Doug with his guard down.

Affleck does a wonderful job building the tension throughout, while injecting effective ironic dark humor. He utilizes the Boston locations to great effect, especially during a harrowing car chase through its narrow streets as he uses tight shots and smart blocking to underscore that the characters are trapped by their choices.

The cast rises to the occasion, with Affleck shining in his quiet, strong role. He allows his cast their turn in the spotlight as well. Hall is quite good, going from victim to aggressor, while Renner shows that his turn in The Hurt Locker was no fluke. Hamm has great fun as the straight arrow agent who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, while Blake Lively as Doug’s ex shows she’s more than just a pretty face.

Thrilling, funny and engaging from the first frame, The Town proves to be one of the best films in recent months. Affleck is a director eager to challenge himself and worth watching.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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