The tension is thick and the accents even thicker in the redemptive crime thriller, The Town.
With it comes confirmation that the city of Boston – with its Irish Catholic roots, grand architecture, and funny accents – has become the new Mecca for the American crime movie.
One of the best examples of this new sub-genre was Gone Baby Gone, the directorial debut of one time box office poison Ben Affleck.
While The Town doesn’t match the power of that film, Affleck (who stars/writes/directs) has still crafted an engrossing movie, that is as much about character is it is action and suspense.
The Town begins with a bank robbery, as four masked man expertly take down security, bag up the loot, and abduct the bank manger (Rebecca Hall), letting her go before driving off into notoriety.
The gang of robbers are made up of four childhood friends, among them Doug (Affleck) the brains of the outfit, and Jem (Jeremy Renner) the wildcard who shoots first and asks questions later.
They all hail from Charlestown, a working class neighbourhood which – according to the movie – is a haven for bank robbers, liking it to a trade handed down from one generation to the next.
Wanting to break that cycle is Doug, who through his relationship with Hall’s one time abductee turned girlfriend (they fall for each while he keeps tabs on her), gives him the strength to want a better life.
Yet as it is with all things involving loyalty, severing ties is not an easy thing to do, and as both actor and director Affleck nails his characters internal struggle to redeem his soul amongst the violence and regret which is his life.
Also good is Renner, playing a character who – unlike Affleck’s tortured crim - has no qualms with who he is and what he has to do.
A scene featuring Affleck and Renner at loggerheads is representative of the film as whole, tough as nails yet with a deep undercurrent of emotion.
Supporting turns by Hall, a pitch perfect Blake Lively (love that accent), and scene stealer Pete Poslethwaite gives The Town a near win for best acting ensemble of the year.
It comes up short in that category thanks to Jon Hamm’s stock performance as the FBI agent on their tale, Hamm severely lacking the “pop” of other dogged law men before him (Al Pacino in Heat, Mark Ruffalo in Collateral).
Once again Affleck proves himself as a master craftsman, creating a rich atmosphere for his actors to relish in, while structuring several action sequences which are as thrilling to watch as they are deafening to hear, with the rat-a-tat of gunfire coming in clear and fast.
As a local boy, his knowledge of Boston with its narrow streets and varied communities brings an authenticity that viewers will take to, even if the dialogue as spoken through those accents can be incoherent at times.
Beneath its tough exterior, The Town has a heart which beats with vigour. If Martin Scorsese’s The Departed was rock ‘n’roll, then The Town is a swooning dance with the devil: seductive, patient, and filled with consequences.