Following its September 8th premiere at the Venice Film Festival, reviews for Ben Affleck's second film (in theatres September 17th) are decidedly mixed, though none (excluding The Guardian's harsh review, after the jump) go so far as to deny it is a worthwhile slice of gritty Boston crime in tune with thematic ancestors sharing its East Coast locale: Mystic River, The Departed and Affleck's 2007 debut, Gone Baby Gone.
Emanuel Levy calls the film a companion piece to the above-mentioned Bostonian films, although he credits the romance between Affleck's lead and Rebecca Hall's character with turning the film into "a more conventional and routine saga about personal redemption":
"...thematically, The Town is trying to do too much, be a thrilling dramatic thriller about robbers and cops, a compelling tale of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and a romantic story of the power of love, hope, and redemption."
Justin Chang at Variety is a fan (and expects a good payday for Warner Bros). He notes Affleck's "natural likeablity [that] leaches some complexity and danger from his conception of this supposedly hardened but terribly romantic criminal" in contrast to Jeremy Renner who "seethes a barely repressed violence." With a "tangy," slang-peppered and "classical storytelling" script:
"Affleck conveys the ferocity of violence onscreen without resorting to gratuitous excess, and the frenzied gunplay of the multiple action sequences -- aided by Robert Elswit's rough-and-ready cinematography and Dylan Tichenor's agile editing -- strikes an ideal balance between kineticism and clarity."
As for the other stars, Chang declares:
"Hall, a sympathetic presence from the get-go, is eventually sidelined in a role that grows more conventional as the film proceeds, while Gossip Girl's Blake Lively, almost unrecognizable here, has fierce, pained moments as the moll and single mother Doug has tossed aside. Postlethwaite, wrapping his lips around an Irish accent, radiates a sadistic malevolence, and Chris Cooper makes a brief, somewhat pro-forma appearance as Doug's father, emerging from the shadow of a jail cell to impress upon us the steep price of a life of crime."
Sheri Linden of THR also notes Robert Elswit's camerawork and Dylan Tichenor's editing as strong elements, but calls Harry Gregson-Williams' score distracting, and believes that while Affleck "gets the tribalism of Boston's traditionally Irish-American enclaves," the characters don't escape being types:
"for all the well-choreographed action, the outcome doesn't matter nearly as much as it should…However far-fetched the connection, Affleck and the versatile Hall make it work, at least for a while…As our rooting interest, Affleck is sympathetic, if not compelling. Caught between old-school loyalty and the promise of something beyond Charlestown, Doug belongs to the lineage of honorable crooks, a movie staple. He represents the possibility of reform."
This Is London's Derek Malcolm believes the film "allows its flawed hero an ending he perhaps doesn’t deserve, has a good mix of moments recalling a Bostonian version of The Wire and the car chases and gun fights of more orthodox thrillers. It should help Affleck on his way as an actor/director of some note."
The Guardian's Xan Brooks compares Affeck's film to his brother Casey's arguably-faux Joaquin Phoenix documentary I'm Still Here:
"Try as I might, I can't decide which film is funnier, although it may well be The Town, which acts so big and tough that it soon grows faintly ludicrous…The film ends with one last job and one last disguise. Hilariously, this involves Affleck and Renner dressing up as policemen. They come striding down the corridor in their smoked sunglasses and jaunty caps, with their legs apart and their shoulders swinging, like a pair of strippers en route to a hen night."