About a decade ago, when a discredited senator former fugitive back in his Senate seat was the Philippine police chief, there were suspiciously a large number of bank robberies (not counting kidnappings and a flood of illegal drugs locally called shabu) despite the well-tended reputation of the then police chief for aggressive law enforcement and incorruptibility.
The bank robberies played out almost daily on the media like free movies. Big money, big guns, and big guts were fascinating subjects after all. The popularity of prison movies is tied to people’s curiosity on what it really is like inside the penal system. Everyone wishes he was tough, but if you cannot be, at least you watch films about tough guys. And besides the military and police establishments, where else can you find the toughest of the tough but in prison!
Gang bangers in the United States especially the Bloods and Crips would like the world to think they’re the meanest mothers in creation. But tough is tough no matter the color or geographic location, and you are only as tough as the number of years on your life. In the eastern seaboard of the U.S., it seems there are not many as unbending as the predominantly Irish gangsters in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, reputedly the most densely-populated concentration of bank and armored-truck robbers. Based on Chuck Hogan’s fictionalized novel Prince of Thieves, which the Ben Affleck directed and starrer The Town is derived, the film is a taut well-directed opus that adds to the sub-genre of Boston Irish crime movies.
Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a failed pro ice hockey player, who turns to crime in his father’s footsteps, teaming up with his three childhood friends where he is the brains/leader, jacking up wherever the money is. MacRay is a good guy of a criminal who tries hard to avoid killing in pursuit of his criminal career but is damned to team up with a psychotic killer – James "Jem" Coughlin (played by Jeremy Renner). Inevitably, they kill one person and another as the stakes of their robberies go higher and as complications ensue with their boss, a veteran criminal who runs a flower shop as a front.
The Town is not purely an action film in the crime genre. The plot manages to add pathos with the subplot of MacRay’s father being in prison, the mysterious disappearance of the younger MacRays’ mother when he was still a boy, and his newfound girlfriend who was the unwitting manager of a bank the group heisted.
Their biggest job is taking the proceeds of the gate at Fenway Park but the FBI gets wind of their plan and a full-blown shootout ensues where more people are killed and the story winds down to a dramatic optimistic end. Not bad for a basically action movie where the protagonists are tough bad guys.
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