We haven't seen a Boston foursome like this since 1997
The Town is surprisingly watchable, with a confident sense of place and no illusions about what it is (tense but forgettable) and what it isn't (moving or believable). I had no clue what it was about when I walked in, but I was expecting a melodramatic thriller like Gone Baby Gone, not a tightly wound cop vs. robber flick. The action sequences and set pieces were a major highlight, and the Boston accents were thankfully kept under control (other than Pete Postlethwaite's rogue brogue). And despite some truly horrendous dramatic dialogue between Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall, the movie kept a brisk pace, rarely allowing your attention to focus on how preposterous the relationships and characters were.
So for the most part I liked it, and I've now tolerated Ben Affleck in three straight movies (The Town after Extract and State of Play), which hasn't happened in well over a decade. And speaking of those early Affleck years, there was something altogether too familiar about The Town, wasn't there? Not just because the last minute was reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, and not because Affleck's performance was recycled from Armageddon and Paycheck, but because, well...
WillDoug is a twenty-something ruffian from a historically blue-collar Boston neighborhood. He's an only child who raised himself from a young age, getting in trouble for minor offenses here and there. He has three other buddies from the neighborhood, one whom he considers a brother. The foursome wear track suits as they drink Bud Heavy at nameless corner bars. Sometimes they spontaneously beat up other guys in the neighborhood. One day, WillDoug develops an unlikely crush on a pretty brunette who's not from the area. They have casual dates at outdoor cafes; he lies to her about his personal life.
After accomplishing a very impressive and complicated feat (dealing with numbers) in Cambridge,
WillDoug develops a reputation as an anonymous genius. Everyone in the area wants to know who did it, but no one will come forward and WillDoug wasn't seen in the act. Some time later he comes under suspicion, though, and a sharp-tongued antagonist is assigned to study him. He tries to understand him and his troubled history, but WillDoug is a tough case to crack, and complicating matters is a foreign older man and his awkward sidekick, who force WillDoug to work on their terms.
(Aerial shots of Fenway Park.)
WillDoug has a heart-to-heart with his best friend (after they wrestle, harmlessly). His friend tells him stories of the past, tells WillDoug that he'd kill to have what he hasfor him, that WillDoug owes to himself and to the community to leavestay.
With his romantic relationship on the rocks, and forced to own up to his fate,
WillDoug eases out of a difficult situation and lets his best friend take the fall for him. Before skipping town, WillDoug leaves a pithy handwritten note for his mentor. As WillDoug sets off into a calm orange dusk, we hear his voice in a letter, explaining his decision to pursue a brighter future.