A let down to say the least, The Town was full of stereotypes, an unlikely and forced-fed love story and finally a pretty slow “I don’t care how we get there just get there” pace. I may be selling this short and not recognizing the film’s so-called brilliance, but this just wasn’t a story worth telling. Maybe it was me but the trailer gave the feeling that this would be a high-octane bank robbing film (don’t trailers always do that?). But seriously, for a film about bank robbers who were the very best, there was surprisingly little robbery and even less proof that these guys were pros.
PLOT: If you start the film off by saying that 300 bank robberies occur each year in one little sleepy Boston suburb (which I already have trouble believing) then you have to assume “these guys” are doing a significant number of them, right? Nope, these “pros” aren’t even living high on the hog enjoying the fruits of their labors. They hit a bank hard, then lay very very low, all of them living in the poverty level shanties they grew up in. What about the 80’s bank robbery films did these guys not get? Wasn’t there a back up plan to take one more job and then flee to a non extradition counrty? Oh, right,because that would have been too predictable/cliche. One bit which which did work nicely was the reveal that these guys weren’t just picking the jobs themselves. Like any semi-organized crime caper, their orders came down from the top. Have to say that the way and from whom they got their orders was clever and it gave some depth to the film. That was a bit more interesting than a gritty Ocean’s 11 type plot and I have to give them that credit. But what killed it is that you never saw much of the planning so to me, the whole set up was like a wash.
CHARACTER: Never having seen Mad Men I can’t say I know the acting potential of Jon Hamm but after seeing this, I believe him to be a solid performer (and Mad Men is now in the Netflix queue). But to me, the standout here is the role of adrenaline junkie James who is made all the more interesting by the performance of Jeremy Renner. Sure he seemed to just channel some of his “Devil Could Care” character from The Hurt Locker but it’s a role he’s comfortable with and plays well. You can pretty much assume that most crime caper ends in tears and this, and all the players almost aggravatingly stereotypical. There are no satisfying character arcs here and most everyone is either 2 dimensional or worse transparent. The supporting cast was much more interesting that the main ones and provided the more dynamic facets to the story specifically Pete Postlethwaite and even Chris Cooper in his less than 60 seconds of screen time. Finally with four main bank robbers and the story focusing on only two of them this failed to sell them as a unit.
MELODY: Pacing was what pretty much killed this for me. The Town focused on Affleck setting himself up for the big exit with a woman I’m pretty damn sure wouldn’t have given him a chance had this not been a movie. It was just so force-fed that it took me out of it, not to mention the sloth like pace of it all. Plus, if Affleck was thinking of making an exit why take a woman from Boston with him? Wouldn’t it be easier to meet someone new in wherever the hell he was going? The more baggage you bring with you, the easier it would be to leave a trail. And what the hell made this woman so special that after seeing her, he decided she’s the reason he wants out of this all? This was just one example of bad writing. As far as direction, it wasn’t bad and thinking about it, Ron Howard took a good number of films to get his groove and make fantastic films. Still I don’t think Affleck is talentless, I just found problems with the story and dialog mainly it was hard to appreciate anything else.
SPECTACLE: Despite the problems I have with The Town, the action, when it finally came around, it was quite intense. The bank robbery opening, the small alley car chase (though unbelievable and contrived) were impressive as well as the awesome shootout in the finale. Intimidation goes a long way in making someone appear like a smooth criminal but to me, the film just never showcased why these guys were the best. For guys who have a profession that’s been passed from generation to generation where were the fruits of these guy’s labors? Sure this was an unflattering look at unglamorous bank robbers but what was with all the destitute? Again, I wasn’t expecting an Ocean’ 11 type of criminal elite smoothness, but for pros, these guys never had a proper or fool-proof Plan B.
While I figure it’s tough to be original or creative with a bank robbery film, this didn’t even try. While I don’t get so-called “thinking man’s gritty heist movies” like Ronin, I prefer a “wham bam, we’re awesome, you’re not” type of film. The Town was neither. This isn’t HEAT or even Point Break….so if you want a movie like that, then go watch them and I’m positive you’ll have a better time. Oh and when did Ben Affleck fancy himself Clint Eastwood? Writing, directing and starring? Give yourself about 20 more years you arrogant bastard. It may sound like I’m being hard on the film but for a movie about great bank robbers now fraying and falling apart, it felt like they had started slipping long before the opening credits.