Ben Affleck‘s The Town leaves quite a ruminant residue long after the credits roll, particularly how you slowly converge with the substance and narrative subtext that seemingly eke out of a deceptively simplistic script. Affleck’s latest has a striking pantheonic air to it and deserves canonization amidst the vintage crime dramas and neo-noir heist flicks of contemporary cinema (French Connection, Thief, Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects, Heist, Heat, Ronin, The Departed, etcetera). The film also succeeds as its own idiosyncrasy, however, by adding a pleasantly unexpected and beautifully photographed character: the ever-curious Charlestown.
There’s nothing like a director’s intimate relationship with the geography and culture of his-or-her hometurf that really brings a script to life. The personal touches, the affection, even the bittersweet loathing. Nothing that CGI, multimillion-dollar studios or cold research could ever accomplish on their own.
A.O. Scott of the New York Times says it astutely:
Long ago, in the American popular imagination, Boston was the home of the bean and the cod, a genteel stomping ground of Brahmins and bluestockings and Ivy League nitwits. Nowadays, perhaps owing to tax incentives that encourage local film production, it has become a paradise for dialect coaches and a cinematic stronghold of the kind of white, ethnic, blue-collar tribalism that used to flourish in movies about places like Philadelphia, Chicago and, of course, New York.
A sober introductory text informs us that one particular area of the city — Charlestown, where tourists can follow the Freedom Trail to the Bunker Hill Monument — is home to more armored car and bank robbers than anywhere else in America. One of them is Doug MacRay (Mr. Affleck), whose crew is first seen knocking over a bank in Cambridge. That sequence, like most of the other action set pieces in the film, is lean, brutal and efficient, and evidence of Mr. Affleck’s skill and self-confidence as a director.
You owe it to yourself to watch it. That is, if you don’t have ADHD and are fond of good movies. They really don’t make crime dramas much like this anymore (where action sequences aren’t cut like your younger sister’s favorite The Fast and the Furious inspired music video on dextromethamphetamine). Many will compare this to Affleck’s previous Boston-based mystery yarn, Gone Baby Gone, which I hear is a definite must-watch, as well (next on my Netflix fix-list). Let’s just not forget where we were all originally introduced to Affleck’s affinity to Boston: Good Will Hunting (1997), another incredible piece of filmdom co-written with then-co-conspirator Matt Damon.
Stay in New England, Ben. I think this marks an era in your life that no longer caters to a blockbuster role for Michael Bay’s short bus version of a war epic or a romantic film collaboration with an ex-girlfriend.