Ben Affleck’s 4 year old movie, The Town, which is based on Chuck Hogan’s book “Prince of Thieves”, is about 4 bank robbers from Boston’s Charlestown section, who are both friends and rivals at the same time. They’re all quite skillful at getting what they want when they heist banks and armored trucks, and coming up clean, but in one particular bank heist, something goes wrong, the attractive female bank manager, Claire Keesey, is blindfolded, abducted, taken as a hostage, and then driven to South Boston, and then let go, after “Jem”, who was the defacto leader, Doug MacRay’s right-hand man has nearly butt-rifled Claire’s assistant manager to death and permanently injured him.
Not long afterwards, Doug MacRay and Claire meet cute, “by chance”, in a Charlestown laundromat, and begin dating, but the relationship is short-lived due to the FBI being on the trail of Doug MacRay and his men, as well as the realization on the part of both Doug and Claire that their idea of being together is merely a pipe dream–that it would never work out. After learning that Doug was one of the men who’d terrorized her and robbed her bank at gunpoint while wearing masks and capes, she dumps him. Doug eventually splits for Florida after the Fenway Park heist, and after killing his crime bosses, leaving Claire with a ton of blood-stained loot money, which she uses to renovate the run-down Charlestown hockey rink for the local townie kids.
Here’s my take on The Town:
The Town, imho, is one of these movies that’s so bad that it’s good. It does not have a particularly good cast; Jon Hamm is straight from TV’s “Mad Men”, and Blake Lively is straight out of TV’s Gossip Girl.” Rebecca Hall plays a pretty-looking, but rather vapid Claire, with little or no spirit to her. There are many people in the film who have little or not experience in acting. Ben Affleck, on the other hand, is a bit too pretty-boy, too wooden, and too gentle to be really believable as Doug MacRay. The only characters who seemed believable were Jeremy Renner as James (aka “Jem) Coughlin, and, to a certain extent, even Jon Hamm as FBI Agt Frawley. Ordinarily, I’m willing to suspend disbelief, albeit temporarily, when I go to see a film, but not this time.
One has to ask how could Claire really not have any clue about who Doug MacRay really was and what he was up to, when he schpieled off to Claire at length about his supposed knowledge of the criminal justice system, and when he grilled Claire at length about the four men who robbed her at gunpoint, took her hostage, drove her around and let her go. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that Claire didn’t have any hints as to who Doug was.
I also might add that there’s something really eerie not only about some guy stalking and following a woman that he doesn’t even know from a distance and then approaching her in a laundromat with these sort of leering looks, but also about a woman (especially if she’s already been traumatized by his violent crimes) accepting a date with some guy who’s been acting in a predatory manner by essentially stalking her (I think that Doug was essentially stalking Claire.) and trying to comfort her with stupid, unfunny jokes, lying about his overall profession and his family and coming off as an upstanding, law-abiding citizen towards Claire (who was so traumatized by what Doug and his men did to her by robbing her bank at gunpoint just days before, that she ultimately quit her job as a bank manager.), when, in fact, he was anything but a law-abiding citizen.
The Town makes absolutely no effort to get at the causes of such crimes, or why Doug and his men, as well as the drugged-out, drunken, slatternly Krista who slept around with so many men around town that she had no idea who’d fathered her daughter, Shyne, would engage in them.
Oh…and why is it okay for good-girl Claire to accept an expensive diamond necklace from her new bank-robbing boyfriend that he’d undoubtedly bought for her with stolen blood money, and to spend money that was not hers to spend on the renovation of a local hockey rink for the kids, and to deliberately and knowingly make total dupes of the Feds and other law-enforcement people who were assigned to bring Doug and his men down, in the first place? Imho, Claire should’ve turned that blood-stained loot money that Doug left her, along with the tangerine and the farewell note (The tangerine would’ve provided the clue as to where Doug could’ve been found!) that were also in the black duffle bag of money, over to the proper authorities (i. e. the FBI), anonymously, through arrangements, and found more honest ways to procure the funds for the renovation of Charlestown’s hockey rink, instead of allowing Doug to manipulate, lie his way into her heart to get him to trust her and warn her, oh so subtlely not to talk to the Feds or else!) use her as sort of a go-between regarding the renovation of the rink.
It’s not, imho. Moreover, The Town elicits some rather prominent stereotypes: That everybody in C-Town is a bank-robber or in the bank-robbing family business, the wholesome, all-American girl next door who is petted and praised as a good lass, even though she made some rather stupid, disgusting choices after the robbery of her bank that put her in a really bad light, even though the robbery wasn’t her fault, and who steals the heart of the defacto leader of a bunch of local thieving, murdering thugs (jem had spent nine years in prison for killing someone who was going to kill his best buddy, Doug, for instance, and Doug ended up murdering Fergie and Rusty, partly in retaliation for Fergie’s destruction of Doug’s family, and partly to supposedly keep Claire safe and unharmed. Imho, the fact that Doug went and killed Rusty and Fergie afterwards renders the so-called timeline null and void, as far as I’m concerned. Doug is a hypocrite, as well as a man of unprovoked violence, and a violent criminal, with a long record of armed robbery and aggrevated assault (Doug had assaulted another guy on his hockey team after having blown his chances at being a pro hockey player.), and now he’d just murdered 2 people on top of all that.
Although I dislike Krista’s sordid lifestyle (drug/alcohol addiction and abuse, sleeping around with too many men(she was clearly a prostitute.), I realize that Krista was playing the cards that were dealt to here; she’d grown up with Doug and Jem, who’d exploited and abused her as much as a lot of other guys around town, and she didn’t know any other way.
Claire Keesey, on the other hand, was smarter and more educated, with a decent job, who really should’ve known better.
How can so many people have missed the fact that Doug MacRay was exploiting Claire as a bargaining chip in order to avoid going back to prison and doing time for his crimes?
Imho, the phrase “I’ll see you again, this side or the other.”, which also comes up at the end of Doug’s visit to his father in prison, as well as at the end of Doug’s farewell letter to Claire, in both instances, is a euphemistic way of saying that they never will meet again.
Doug’s meeting Claire in Florida would be impossible, for at least the following reasons:
A) there’s no way that Doug could go back to Charlestown; he’d be caught, because the Feds are still on the lookout for him. That was indicated by the fact that, when it was clear that Doug wasn’t going to show up at Claire’s condo after all, FBI Agt. Frawley said to his men: (about Doug MacRay): “Get the description out! We know what he looks like. We’ll find him.” People down in Florida and throughout the United States, generally, also have access to radio, TV, newspapers and magazines. Why shouldn’t or wouldn’t the Feds eventually find Doug and bring him to justice? I always hope they wil!
B) Doug’s days of hiding out in Florida are more than likely numbered; chances are that Doug would be found, caught (perhaps violently), and either gunned down by the law or tried for, charged with his crimes and sent to prison, and Claire would be in the line of fire, and not the least bit safe.
C) It’s possible that Claire, with all the stupid choices that she had made after her bank was heisted at gunpoint by Doug MacRay and his men, eventually smartened up, realized that she and Doug couldn’t be together, that risking her whole future to be with a guy with such a history of violence and a long criminal record would be futile, and that she was happy to live her life without him.
Imho, The Town also sends a message that people don’t have to be held accountable for their actions and behaviors, that pretty much anything goes (i. e. putting innocent people’s lives at risk), as long as one gets what they want, and also that it’s okay to make utter dupes of law enforcement people who are trying to do their jobs of bringing down career criminals, and to be an accessory to someone’s crimes just because one falls in love with them.
I also think that The Town conveys the message that we’re supposed to sympathize with Doug and his men, despite their being hard-core career criminals, that it’s okay to act in a predatory manner and stalk somebody who’s already badly traumatized by the crimes of a criminal and his men who’d just put hers and other people’s lives at risk, to lie his way into a woman’s heart to get her to trust him and not go to the FBI for help, and to warn her not to go to the Feds, or else.
The Town also normalizes the Stockholm Syndrome, and its inverse the Lima Syndrome (both of which involve bonding with their captors.), which also bothers me.
I admittedly felt somewhat sorry for Krista, despite her sordid lifestyle, because she’d had so few choices in her life. Claire Keesey, on the other hand, is somebody that I have a hard time sympathizing with, because, as someone who’s more educated and smarter, with a decent job, she should’ve known better. I also think that had Claire not set off the silent alarm, she wouldn’t have been taken hostage, and her assistant manager wouldn’t have been butt-rifled nearly to death, either. Sure, the robbery wasn’t her fault, but the choices that Claire made afterwards put her in an extremely bad light.
Many of the scenes, such as the shoot-out scenes, were rather over the top and unrealistic, to boot. The shoot-out between Doug and his bandits and the Boston Police, as well as the Fenway park shoot-out between Doug and his men, and all the law enforcement people were shoot-outs that I had a hard time suspending disbelief about, because, realistically, nobody would’ve survived those shoot-outs. There would’ve been broken, bloodied bodies all over the place.
Doug and his men would not’ve been so sympathetic with the bank manager, Claire, either. They would’ve been much rougher on her, and even Doug wouldn’t have been nearly as gentle. That would’ve been especially true if Claire had been afflicted with kind of mental and/or developmental problems, or any other type of handicap.
Dez was a smart (but rather stupid) guy; he was college-educated, with a regular full-time job, who worked at Vericom, but he was just mainly along for the ride, and did what his guys needed him to do and what he was told.
Having said all of the above, I consider The Town a poorly-done film which fell well short of its potential. The weak Doug-Claire romance, an immature script, a mediocre cast, and a flat ending, where Doug goes a free man, courtesy of Claire, all helped ruin the film for me. The beginning was interesting enough, but it began to go from being okay to being just plain awful, in a matter of minutes.
All in all, The Town is so bad, because, imho, it’s an overrated, hyped-up, cheesy piece of junk that’s more like a feature-length, cartoon-like soap opera than a regular movie. For all the people who complain about its not having received any Academy Awards, it got no Academy Awards, because it really wasn’t that good, although it clearly tried hard to be good.
Yet, at the same time, The Town is good, in that it has and does spark lots of lively discussions.