There are many things, that can go wrong with a heist movie:
Your robbers are incompetent
The police force is incompetent
The character “drama” is there to fill the gap between the heists
There’s one incompetent/insane guy that does more harm to your operation than good
Fortunately none of these points apply to The Town, written, directed and starring Ben Affleck.
Right of the bat the movie shows us a group of robbers whose job is executed with clockwork precision. The plan works out in a way that would have made Dark Knight’s Joker proud, nothing is left to chance and every possible thing that could go wrong is taken care of.
The script tells the story of a Boston gang led by Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), which is forced to take a hostage during a robbery in case the police are on their heels.
After the job the gang needs to make sure that the hostage Claire (Rebecca Hall) hasn’t seen anything that could get them to jail – naturally a love story between Claire and Doug is starting and the FBI is tightening its grip on the gang. And when the Smoke Monster (Titus Welliver) is looking for you, you better watch your steps.
The refreshing thing about The Town is the fact that it plays with our prejudices. During the first heist we get key images that trigger certain storylines in our head. We think we know how the story will progress from then on, we wait for a certain revelation after 90 minutes, why else would they show a plot-element like this during the first sequence?
The great thing is that while there is constant tension about those elements, many times they serve as a red herring to distract us from the actual revelation. While those revelations are nothing spectacular, they are welcomed because we were expecting something else.
Unlike many typical robber-movies the characters are actually interesting and there is a believable central conflict between Doug and James about whether a person living in their neighbourhood has any chance of leaving this devil’s circle of crime and what the costs of this might be.
And while those conflicts are very involving the screenplay never forgets to apply pressure on the protagonists by introducing very capable FBI-agents, so the crimes are a constant mind-game between Doug’s gang and the official and with both sides bringing on their A-game in pressuring the other group the ensuing battle is intriguing and never once boring.
A big compliment to the action sequences: long shots, many establishing shots, the audience always has a picture of what the protagonists want to accomplish and what’s the obstacle to overcome – a welcomed change after the disastrous mess that was The Expendables.
I really can’t say anything bad about this movie, except for the fact that in the last five seconds I was on the verge of my seat, because it movie came very close to destroying everything with the final shot.
Rest assured – it doesn’t.
The Town is not in the same league as Heat, but it is a tremendously well written and entertaining movie, very much welcomed after Resident Evil 4. And if it weren’t for Inception it would be the best heist movie of the year.
Rating and Moviequation: