Review: Adapted from the 2004 novel The Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, The Town (which refers to Charlestown, Massachusetts, located just across the Charles River north of Boston) is, to put it simply, a muddled mess of a film.
It all starts promising enough. Former high school hockey star Doug Macray (Ben Affleck), a purported role model for his community, has decided instead to follow in his father's footsteps by pursuing a life of crime. He and his pals are supposedly good at what they do ... though it isn't quite clear why they appear so unsuccessful and lead such miserable lives. Still, they knock off a bank in the opening scene, taking Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), the bank manager, hostage. They let her go but not before Macray is -- wait for it -- totally smitten. And all of a sudden what could have been a thrilling, heist-centered film quickly loses its way ... and my interest.
The pacing of the film -- maybe it's the editing -- is all wrong here. The next hour or so tends to proceed at glacial speed. Affleck and Hall have absolutely no on-screen chemistry and their scenes together seem to go on forever. Hall is never convincing as Macray's girlfriend, rather she plays the part as more aloof than anything else. And most of the time Affleck spends with her he looks bored, like he'd rather be somewhere, anywhere else. Affleck isn't a very good actor on his best day -- and the fact that it always looks like he's reading his lines from a teleprompter doesn't help -- but he's particularly miscast here. As director, he should have found someone who could play the part more dynamically, and wasn't such a milquetoast.
There are a few good scenes briefly cut into this pseudo-love story. The FBI gets involved in trying to solve the bank robbery, and Jon Hamm is particularly effective as Adam Frawley, the lead agent on the case. But the never-strong plot shows some more weakness here as he doesn't logically follow the leads that he has.
The action picks up considerably towards the end when Macray and his team are planning one last heist. And really, the whole setup and execution plays out quite well. But it's all too little too late. The final scenes are -- sadly but all too appropriately, given what preceded it -- cringe-worthy.
I haven't read the source material, but I've got to believe the book is more focused and logically-driven than this film. As it is, I really cannot recommend it; the ill-conceived and poorly acted love story interferes with the all too infrequent action/suspense sequences, the latter of which for me would be the only reason to see The Town.