Affleck/Renner; The Town is big enough for the both of them.
In terms of acting Ben Affleck has had the epitome of the hit-or-miss careers with strong performances in the legendary Dogma (1999) and hilarious Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). He is however more recognized for his poor performances in flawed films exemplified by the desperately disappointing Daredevil (2003) and the shockingly poor The Sum of All Fears (2002). It seems that when he ventures out from under the wing of director Kevin Smith and long term friend Matt Damon he struggles to perform as well. His directorial and writing career on the other hand has seen nothing but success in the fantastic Good Will Hunting (1997) and the often ignored and much underrated Gone Baby Gone (2007). With the sporadic Affleck at the helm, as director, co-writer and star, it is impossible to predict how The Town would turn out, but from the synopsis alone it looks promising.
Set in, Boston the criminal neighborhood Charlestown, the film follows Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers, who pride themselves on taking what they want and getting out clean. The only family Doug has are his partners in crime, especially James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), who, despite his dangerous, hair-trigger temper, is the closest thing he had to a brother. Everything changes when, on their last heist, Jem briefly took bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage. After her release they discover that Claire lives in Charlestown; Doug feels that he needs to take control so begins pursuing Claire, who has no idea that their encounter is not by chance or that this charming stranger is one of the men who terrorized her only days before. Before long the relationship grows in to a passionate romance and leads to Doug wanting out of this life and the town. With increasing pressure from his closest friend and FBI agent Adam Frawley (John Hamm) who is closing in on him getting out will not be easy.
After the brilliant performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2009) it is not surprising that Jeremy Renner would be cast in higher rated films and there have been two big titles already, Affleck’s The Town and the soon to be released The Avengers (2011). His character “Jem” shares some similarity to his previous role as an unstable character. In this film however, the character is much more violent and incredibly aggressive. Throughout the film Renner grows in to the role as his character faces more and more pressure to the changes he experiences in his crew and from the FBI.
The rest of the cast provide very strong performances in their roles, none more so than Rebecca Hall as the bank manager Clare Keesey. She remains oblivious to the danger that faces her after entering a relationship with the criminal Doug MacRay. Throughout the film you are constantly worried about her as is seems inevitable that she will be put in the line of fire as the pressure between FBI and gangsters erupts around her. The film also sees John Hamm of Mad Men fame play a role as FBI agent very well, so well in fact that you almost side with him. The film could have taken a completely different point of view, but a still would be as strong, it could have focused on Hamm’s character at the forefront instead of the criminals.
The Town is another hit for Affleck, in terms of writing and directing, but more importantly in terms of acting. His performance is very good and his character is very easy to empathize with; he wants to get out of this life he leads. Not only is the film showing the true ability that Affleck has as both writer director and actor, but is also a very good send off for the late Pete Postlethwaite. The Town is a solid 8/10.