Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love and a TEC-9

About a third of the way into Ben Affleck’s heist movie “The Town,” I realized I was watching a chick flick.

I’m okay with that — especially since it also has firefights with ordnance expenditure on the level of a battle on some Pacific atoll and a spectacular car chase on the claustrophobic colonial-era streets of Boston.

It’s also sharply written, with some surprisingly funny bits that grow out of the characters and the story and don’t feel tacked on. In a season of real celluloid stinkers, that’s something to celebrate right there.

So, what makes it a chick flick? The center of the story is the redemptive power of love. Like Chris Knight says in the song: “Love and a .45/One will kill you one will keep you alive.”

The premise is simple: Doug MacRay (Affleck) and his crew of garishly disguised Townie heist experts knock over a Cambridge bank, briefly taking an assistant manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Just to make sure that she can’t tip the crew to the feds, MacRay keeps tabs on her.

And... well, you know what happens.

Affleck is immensely appealing as MacRay — and he has to be to get you rooting for a career criminal to “make it.” MacRay is part of a Charlestown subculture that produces more bank robbers and armored car heisters per capita than any other place in the U.S. He’s good at the job, yet in Claire he sees the possibility of something else, something more.

But everything in Doug’s world — from his floozy sometimes-girlfriend Krista (Blake Lively) and his best friend, the sociopathic Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), to some old-school ex-IRA gangsters — conspire to hold him to the old neighborhood and a way of life that only has one end with two variations: death on the street or death in prison.

That subculture itself is a major character in The Town.

The key to making the whole chick flick aspect work is Hall. Her Claire comes across real and genuine. An easy casting of some flashy A-list actress would have blown the whole thing. The emotional turmoil of her circumstances could easily fall into clichés; Hall’s performance leaves room for inner conflict and ambiguity.

“The Town” is lighter fare than the far superior “The Departed,” which works some similar turf and themes and some of the narrative choices mute its impact. But it’s a solid movie, way better than most of the fare we’ve been subjected to over the past summer. A nice date movie, perhaps... Love and a TEC-9 anyone?

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Respectfully Jim I pull up this blog hoping that the subject matter is a local issue that affects us all.I especially find it educational and entertaining when the subject matter gets people "heated" up expressing their individual ideas and opinions.Have you seen any good "manmovies" lately?

  2. Well, I did watch an episode of Rome while cleaning the guns yesterday....

  3. Jim, loved the movie review - too much serious, real-world "downer" stuff available with the flick of a switch or press of a button these days - saw the flick myself and really enjoyed it - great plot, wonderful characters, terrific acting, and two hours away from the economy, Afghanistan, politicians, Lindsey Lohan, et al and ad nauseum - oh, by the by, this was a Halloween mask flick - I still get the shivers thinking about Skeletor and the Nun!