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TOWN, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) leads a gang who live in Charlestown, the suburb of Boston that's home to most of the bank robbers in the city. After a masked raid on the Cambridge bank, the gang's volatile Jem (Jeremy Renner) briefly takes bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage. When they discover Claire lives in Charlestown, Jem gets nervous and wants to ensure she can't recognize any of them. Doug takes charge and manages to meet Claire 'accidentally' at the laundromat. As his relationship with Claire deepens into a passionate romance, Doug wants out of his heist-driven life and the town. But with the Feds closing in and Jem questioning his loyalty, Doug realizes that getting out will not be easy and, worse, may put Claire in the line of fire.

Review by Louise Keller:
There's a rich sense of place in this taut thriller that begins as a heist movie before it swallows us up and takes us into different territory. The Town of the title is Boston, the US Capital of bank robberies and armoured hold ups and the story (based on Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves) is told from the inside. This is Ben Affleck's second directing feature and it is through his central character of Doug MacRay, who has inherited his criminal lifestyle, that the story is told. Gripping story telling, direction and characterisations make this an electrifying film with enough tension to fill a bank vault, as explosions and emotional upheavals throw up deterrents on the promise of a fresh start.

It all starts with a bank robbery. 'No-one needs to get hurt,' Affleck's Doug tells his accomplices in crime before they don masks and grab the cash. Physical safety is one thing, but emotional wellbeing is quite another as we get inside Doug's skin and begin to understand who he is and what motivates him. There's an accessible, vulnerable quality about Rebecca Hall, who plays Claire, the catalyst to Doug's redemption: the kidnapped bank manager who likes gardens and dreads sunny days. There's a dense chemistry between Affleck and Hall, vital when it comes to showing that hearts have more value than dollars. Jeremy Renner is effective as Doug's close friend James whose life is interwoven with his (that scene in the café when his identity is nearly revealed to Claire is fraught with tension) and Pete Postlethwaite is terrifying as the callous killer with the twisted face who seems at odds with the roses surrounding him. Chris Cooper makes an impression too, as Doug's jailbird father who dishes out pain with words.

I like the way Affleck and his co-writers have constructed the script and how the FBI's pursuit is played out in parallel to the progression of daring heists. Jon Hamm is excellent as the FBI's Adam Frawley and that scene in which he tells Blake Lively's cocaine-addicted single mother Krista, a thing or two about the size of money, is one of the film's most memorable. Ultimately this is Affleck's film as we journey with Doug down risky and cavernous paths. The action is genuinely exciting as cars collide, metal crunches and the impossible takes place through the narrow streets of Boston. After a thrilling heist sequence in which Doug is disguised as a nun, a policeman and ambulance worker, comes a liberating and unexpected resolution, lifting our spirits and leaving us to reflect about the possibilities.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Invested with some original ideas and a solid premise, The Town is a crunchy thriller in seamless Hollywood style, which means plenty of gunplay and car smashes. But the original material elevates it above the average, as does the excellent cast and Ben Affleck's adroit direction.

What makes The Town different are some unique elements, such as the setting, which is true to life; Charlestown is the known centre for the tradesmen whose work is robbing banks. Cosy, isn't it? The next original idea is the plot, which is driven not by the usual dynamic of gang betrayal or clever copwork; it's driven by romance, an unexpected one that intrudes on the gang's plans.

Affleck, as the son of a jailbird (strong cameo by Chris Cooper), makes a great fist of his character, Doug, the outwardly charming and once decent, law abiding boy whose mother's disappearance when he was just 6 remains a shadow over his life. This also plays out in the story as a plot point with a dramatic payoff. Rebecca Hall is excellent as innocent but smart Claire, the bank manager who is swallowed up in the heist, briefly taken hostage by edgy Jem (Jeremy Renner of Hurt Locker fame in top form).

Pete Postlethwaite's Fergie Colm, a florist who can have people killed as easily as he shaves thistles off rose stems and Blake Lively as the drugged up Krista also add greatly to the film's sense of veracity and texture.

There is plenty of detail to chew on, including an identifying tattoo which is used in one of the film's most intense scenes at the early stage of Doug and Claire's relationship, when Jem turns up at the café where the newly bonded couple are chatting. Although it's a scene without overt violence, it has a supercharged effect on a couple of levels.

The picky will see a few unimportant continuity flaws and we may question how and how fast some of the fake uniforms the gang wears for disguise appear, but by and large the attention to cinematic detail is great, as are the cinematography, music and design.

All the early scenes to set us on the path to thriller heaven and are really well constructed, but they almost fail due to inexplicably careless (bass-heavy) sound mixing of the dialogue. Coupled with the mumblings of the characters, quite a bit of dialogue went right by me. But patience is rewarded as the story begins to add more and more layers and the stakes get even higher.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0



TOWN, THE (MA)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Ben Affleck, Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, John Hamm, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper

PRODUCER: Graham King, Basil Iwanyk

DIRECTOR: Ben Affleck

SCRIPT: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard (novel by Chuck Hogan)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit

EDITOR: Dylan Tichenor

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams, David Buckley

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sharon Seymour

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 14, 2010







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