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TOWN, THE (director/writer: Ben Affleck; screenwriters: Peter Craig/Aaron Stockard/based on the novel “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editor: Dylan Tichenor; music: Harry Gregson-Williams/David Buckley; cast: Ben Affleck (Doug MacRay), Rebecca Hall (Claire Keesey), Jon Hamm (Adam Frawley), Jeremy Renner (James Coughlin), Blake Lively (Krista Coughlin), Slaine (Gloansy Magloan), Owen Burke (Desmond Elden), Titus Welliver (Dino Ciampa), Pete Postlethwaite (Fergie Colm), Dennis McLaughlin (Rusty), Chris Cooper (Stephen MacRay); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Graham King; Warner Brothers; 2010)
Solid but superficial and troubling amoral action-packed crime thriller.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”)stars in, cowrites and directs this solid but superficial and troubling amoral action-packed crime thriller that follows to the letter the conventions of those recent TV crime shows like “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: New York.” The ‘crime does pay’ ending and the beastly unreal romance between a confused woman and the supposedly ‘reformed by love’ now sensitive thug who abused her seemed to be a Hollywood reach, especially since this same violent criminal treats the druggie woman (Blake Lively) who had his baby like dirt.

It’s basedon the novel “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan, winner of the 2005 Hammett Prize for excellence in crime writing. The title refers to Boston’s working-class Charlestown neighborhood which – according to the film’s prologue – has the most carjackers and bank robbers in the United States. Writers Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard capture the local flavor of the newcomer yuppie (gentrifying outsiders) and old-timer ‘townie’ blue-collar Charlestown community. It tells of four lifelong criminal friends–Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James ‘Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy Magloan (Slaine) and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke)– who are are bank robbers armed with automatic weapons and are being hunted by the persistent FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm).

Doug MacRay is the brains of the ruthless gang. The lad’s bank robbing father (Chris Cooper) is now serving a life term in prison. When Doug was 6 his mom disappeared, and he was raised by Jem’s parents. During the robbery of a local bank Jem, the brother of Doug’s girlfriend and a volatile thug just out of prison after serving a nine-year stretch for manslaughter, takes the young female bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, British actress), of a Cambridge bank, hostage as a bargaining chip when cops arrive at the scene after the alarm sounds and releases her unharmed but emotionally distraught after taking her for a scary ride blindfolded. This kidnapping act brings FBI agents Frawley and Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) into the case, who question Claire and make her even more frightened by the cold way they question her.

When the gang discover that Claire lives in their Charlestown neighborhood, to make sure she won’t talk Doug keeps tabs on her and manages to pickup the vulnerable single woman at the local laundrymat. She quickly falls for the thuggish tattooed hunky Doug, who passes himself off as a simple construction worker. While Claire and Doug begin a real romantic relationship, the gang’s vicious boss Fergie Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), who runs a flower shop and was also the crime boss of Doug’s father, orders the boys to rob the concession stand haul at Fenway Park after a Red Sox game.

The action scenes are very well done and the acting is fine, but the film is hollow and forgettable. It also left a sour taste in my mouth because it lacked emotional credibility and had a questionable moral value.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”