I am a huge fan of hot-blooded crime cinema, and one of the better recent genre entries is most definitely Ben Affleck’s high-voltage cops and robbers drama The Town, which proved that his extra-sharp directorial debut Gone Baby Gone was no fluke. Adapted with foul mouthed gusto and extra atmospheric flavor by screenwriters Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard, and Affleck from the Chuck Hogan novel Prince of Thieves, and directed by Affleck in minor-Michael Mann mode, this film became a big audience favorite in the fall of 2010, paving the way for Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo a couple of years later. The action pivots on a group of dangerous but disciplined bank robbers led by Affleck, in what’s likely a career best performance, who operates a mostly solitary life, until he falls in love with one of his hostages that he takes during a daring mid-morning heist. Will he be able to call it quits with his criminal life, and is it possible for a good woman to love a bad man? It’s also got terrific action sequences and a dynamite car chase through the narrow streets of Boston that is genuinely hair-raising, furthering underscoring how truly rare it is to get a piece of R-rated, cracker-jack entertainment like this one that never insults intelligence levels at any point.
The deep supporting cast was absolutely incredible, with Jeremy Renner receiving an Oscar nomination for his pugnacious yet sympathetic work as Affleck’s volatile #1 buddy and partner in crime, Jon Hamm as a dogged FBI agent hot on their tail, and the sexy and sweet Rebecca Hall as Affleck’s somewhat reluctant love interest (what an amazing run of films she had with The Prestige, Frost Nixon, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Please Give, Red Riding 1974, Iron Man III, Closed Circuit, Everything Must Go, Transcendence, and most recently, The Gift). Filling the edges of the pulpy narrative are Blake Lively doing her best white-trash-hot routine as Affleck’s townie plaything, Chris Cooper, Titus Welliver, Victor Garber, and a scene-stealing Pete Postlethwaite as a local crime boss with a penchant for flowers. Affleck has released two different director’s cuts which are even more expansive with the character beats and various arcs and which feature darker endings, while all versions of the film showcase Robert Elswit’s ground-level yet totally electrifying camerawork, especially during the extra-loud and intense shoot-outs, which certainly tip their hat to Mann’s benchmark masterpiece Heat. Originally developed as a directing project for Adrian Lyne, the film was shot on location in Boston, and became a sizable box office hit around the world. This is a very satisfying piece of work in all respects.