Listeria: The Ten Dumbest Scenes in “The Town”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 3, 2010
“Heat meets The Departed!!” screamed the rave reviews of the trailer. Having seen those two movies probably a combined 20 times in my life, I was a pretty easy sell for The Town, newfound double-threat Ben Affleck’s heist flick follow-up to the similarly New England-set Gone Baby Gone. Also starring longtime IITS favorite Jeremy Renner and TV stars Jon Hamm and Blake Lively in gloriously quintessential “Hey remember those TV characters that you’ll always associate us with well we can do other things too look at us!!” roles, I knew this was that all-too-rare flick I actually wanted to make the effort to get out to the theaters to see.
And to be fair, the quote was not wrong–except I was kind of hoping it was more of a qualitative statement than a quantitative one. The Town is indeed Heat meets The Departed–it’s pretty much the exact plot of Heat, with even thicker accents and crazier locals than in The Departed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, precisely, but I was hoping for something a little less eye-rolling, something a little more substantial. Instead, it was mostly a bunch of scenes of Ben Affleck trying to imply soulfulness by not smiling and Jon Hamm testing the limits of how disheveled he could get his hair and still look devastatingly handsome (Unsurprising answer: Very.)
Naturally, credibility-straining interactions and cliche-ridden set pieces abound. Here are the ten worst offenders, in roughly chronological order, though it also basically doubles as a countdown since things tend to get dumber as it goes:
10. Dougie (Affleck), after his meet-cute with bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) in a laundromat, picks her up for their makeshift first date. Dougie was supposed to just supposed to monitor how closely Claire, who Dougie and his masked crew momentarily held hostage during their latest boost, was helping out the feds, but wouldn’t you know it, ends up developing feelings for her. Talking with her in his car, she confesses to him that she was recently involved in a heist, and Dougie, barely registering any surprise at this hardly run-of-the-mill news, starts to needle her about the fine points of the FBI’s investigation before saying anything like “Wow, that must have been horrible!” or “Hey, so did anyone get shot or anything?”
Just in case that didn’t tip Claire off enough (who by the way, is inordinately trusting of strangers for someone who just was blindfolded and taken hostage by a number of armed thugs), he responds to her statement claiming that she’d definitely be able to identify the robbers by voice by saying something like “Well, it might be harder than you think.” Oh really, Dougie? Do tell.
9. Dougie enlists the help of psycho bestie Jem in intimidating some no-goodniks. Dougie deliberately undersells on his pitch to Jem, saying something along the lines of “I can’t tell you why we’re doing this, you can never ask me why afterwards, and we’re going to hurt some people.” A second’s pause where we’re supposed to imagine Jem demanding more info before signing on with his bullying service, but instead, he merely inquires “Whose car are we taking?” Ba-dum ching! I guess this guy Jem really likes to hurt people, huh? What a psycho!
8. Dougie, after a heart-wrenching confession to Claire about his mom leaving when he was young, goes to confront daddy Stephen (Chris Cooper) about it in prison. Why, Dougie wonders, didn’t Stephen ever look for her after she went missing? (“She was a druggie whore” is basically the extent of his explanation.) Not a terrible scene, and Cooper kinda kills it on his end, but it did strike me as a little amazing that it took Claire’s innocuous questioning some thirty-plus years after the fact for Dougie to raise the question to Pops of “So, by the way, why did Mom peace out all those years ago?” Seems like something that might’ve come up in conversation in the decades in between, dunno. Maybe the two would rather just talk about the Bruins during visitations.
7. Jem, noticing with irritation that Dougie has been seeing Claire socially, decides to crash one of their dates, introducing himself to her as Dougie’s long-time friend in an extremely tense scene involving a lot of doublespeak and glaring matches between Jem and an obviously none-too-pleased Dougie. After Jem leaves–though not before Dougie has to inconspicuously grasp his neck during his departure, so Claire won’t notice the distinctive Notre Dame tattoo he revealed on his neck during the bank heist–Claire’s one takeaway from the encounter is “So, I guess you didn’t tell your friends about me, huh?” A more pressing question might have been “OK, that guy introduced himself as your friend but you were clearly pissed off to see him and wanted to get rid of him before he revealed some big secret, what’s the deal?” These are the kind of people that pass for bank managers in The Town? No wonder it’s getting robbed all the damn time.
6. In the bureau office during the investigation of the crew’s first robbery, Agent Frawley (Hamm) gets a call on his cell phone, presumably related to the more-recent heist that the boys pulled off seconds earlier. “Close the bridge!,” he commands his partner without explanation. “What?” he understandably asks. “Close the fucking bridge!!” clarifies an evidently impatient Frawley. I mean…what bridge? Why? Do you really need to prove what a no-time-to-talk badass you are that you can’t elaborate a little on your big-deal imperative? Better yet, close the fucking bridge yourself, Jon Hamm. You’re not the boss of me.
5. Frawley, desperate for a lead in chasing Dougie and his crew, decides to bully his old squeeze Krista (Lively) for some information, using her apparently well-known role in an Oxycontin-running operation as leverage. But rather than come right out and say that, he cozies up to her in her home bar and flirts with her for a few minutes, even launching into a ridiculous extended metaphor about the weight of a $20 bill (which starts off sounding like a boast about his dick–don’t ask) before dropping the bombshell of the bill “not being worth its own weight…in Oxy” as Krista’s expression drops. I mean…for all Frawley’s time’s-a-wastin’ bombast, he certainly loves to meander around the point when chatting up the floozies. Chemistry between the two wasn’t bad, though–do I smell a Gossip Girl / Mad Men crossover?
4. Before the two embark on their latest, biggest, presumably final heist, Jem gives Dougie a little speech demonstrating how much he hated the nine years he spent in prison when he was young. Thus, he says, if he gets cornered by the cops during the upcoming job, he’s going to die shooting his way out rather than go back to jail. I wonder how many big-moment speeches in crime-flick history have focused around thugs saying to each other “You know, if the cops corner us on this one, let’s just surrender, because bullets hurt a lot and I’m actually kind of afraid of dying, and besides my cousin’s a really good defense attorney and could probably get our sentence down to 15-20 if we cop a plea.” Could you count them on one hand? I’m betting you could count them on one hand.
3. OK, this one might actually be on me. After pulling off the movie’s climactic heist at Fenway Park (where else?), crew member Gloansy (Slaine–also a member of La Coka Nostra, apparently) makes a crack about how “No one’s robbed the Sawx like that since Jack Clark!” Over my head in the theaters, I checked Clark’s Wikipedia page hoping it would partially explain the reference. After poring over it a couple times, I still got nothing. Anyone wanna help me out? (And in the meantime, if they were going the baseball route, wouldn’t “No one’s robbed the Sawx like that since [Yankees Owner Who Traded for Babe Ruth]!” have been the obvious choice? Guess it’s a townie thing.)
2. After the final heist goes awry (Damn, damn, damn!!) and Dougie is the only one of the crew who makes it out alive, he gives Claire one last call to try to persuade her to come away with him. Unbeknownst to Dougie–well, actually, entirely beknownst to Dougie, since he’s watching with binoculars from across the way–Claire has agreed to cooperate with the Feds, and uninspiringly tries to get him to meet her at her apartment, where the cops will be waiting for him. Heartbroken at her collaboration, Dougie unconvincingly agrees to come over, but just before he’s about to hang up, a suddenly motivated Claire tells him just how much she wants to come over, saying it’ll be just like one of her “sunny days”–a call back to a previous conversation between the two where she’d mentioned that she always associates sunny days with death. Clearly relieved at her trying to help him out, Dougie says he’ll be right there and hangs up.
Generally, I’d think this would be the point where one of the feds would take the phone from Claire and say something like “OK, so you obviously just tipped him off with that last part there, now what’s the deal and where can we find him?” Instead, Frawley and company’s conclusion is more along the lines of “Great! Did you hear that guys? He’s coming over! This is gonna be easy!” They set up their semi-inconspicuous trap for him while Dougie gets an hour’s head start on his getaway. Eventually, Frawley realizes he’s not coming and makes a “Sunny days, huh?” type comment to Claire, just to let her know that her little ruse wasn’t completely lost on him. This is the best and brightest the local FBI has to offer? Once again, no wonder this town gets robbed all the damn time.
1. After Dougie gets away–and yes, he actually does get away, presumably because Affleck was always as crushed as I was when DeNiro got killed at the end of Heat–Claire digs up a bag that he left buried in her garden before splitting from The Town. The bag contains Dougie’s share of the money from the Fenway heist, with a note saying that she should use the money to do some good. I figured the next scene would feature a guilt-ridden Claire turning over the money to the feds, possibly exchanging an understanding glance with a resigned Frawley. But no, apparently Claire’s good with spending Dougie’s blood money, and she uses it to refurbish a skating rink that the two had previously bemoaned having lost its ice. (Dougie was once a hockey prospect, you see.)
Uh…what? Claire, an ex-bank manager (she quits halfway through the movie for some reason) who presumably knows a thing or two about money, doesn’t see the risk in laying down such a large cash donation? Do suspicions in The Town not arise when unemployed consorts of known felons suddenly shell out five or six-digit amounts for local charity projects? And on the off chance that it wasn’t already 100% transparent where she got the money from, Claire has the rink dedicated to the memory of Dougie’s departed mother. Subtle.
In conclusion, go see The Social Network. Trent Reznor does the music!