Movie Review: “The Town”

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Ben Aflleck goes back to his Bostonian roots and puts on a director’s cap with “The Town,” a gritty realist crime drama that has become the talk of town. After his directorial debut of powerfully shocking “Gone Baby Gone” and a second solid return, he proves that directing is in the cards for him (perhaps more so than acting).

Set in Charlestown, a rough blue-collar suburb of Boston, the town has been a breeding ground for criminals for generations; murderers, armed robbers, carjackers, etc. Mafia head (Pete Postlethwaite) brazenly conducts businesses behind innocuous storefront and strong-arms even hard-core perpetrators.

Having a convicted killer felon as a father (Chris Cooper) and a mother who left him (there’s more than meets the eye) at six years old, Doug MacRay (Affleck), goes back to town after his short career in pro-hockey ended before it began. He joins the brotherhood of crimes — James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”), Albert Magloan (Slaine) and Owen Burke (Desmond Eden). Sleazy sister Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively, “Gossip Girl”) with a kid, presumably Doug’s, rounds up the main players. While the story revolves around Doug and this may be Affleck’s film, Jeremy is the star here. His trigger-happy James can turn predictable into unpredictable.

Doug’s fate seems to be sealed in crime, until he falls for and pursues a relationship with a bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), whose bank he has robbed, and is blissfully unaware about the real identity of her new guy. Complications soon arise as the FBI (Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver) is closing in and Claire is clued in.

The Bostonian fast-talks among tightly-knit characters occupies a lot of screen time, but it’s evenly enthralling. There’s a stretch of chase-and-getaway sequences that will keep your pulse racing. And the rapid-fire shootouts during the Fenway heist to the finish is adrenaline-pumping good.

Doug is clearly a bad guy; there’s no shade of gray about it. I don’t normally root for the bad guy, but somehow I found myself pulling for an escape route for him – and to give him an earnest chance to truly turn his life around. The ending, which could have swerved differently, is as realistic as it can be and it’s just “right” at different levels.

Copyright (c) 2010. Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

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