City on a Hill Season 1 Review
Ben Affleck returns to The Town, pitching this superb Boston crime saga headlined by a career high performance from Kevin Bacon.Created by Charlie McLean, based on an original idea by him and Affleck, there's more than a little of Affleck's impressive Boston-flavoured take on Heat, The Town, when it comes to City on a Hill, reframing the setup from a wider angle and painting it out in long form TV show style, to impressive results.
Of course, much of the impressiveness is thanks to the front-and-centre casting of Kevin Bacon. Yes, a man now rather embarrassingly better known for mobile phone adverts than any kind of actual acting. Bacon looks (and perhaps even acts) like some kind of retired 70s porn star, but absolutely embraces the corrupt slow-burn anti-hero role, relishing in just how far gone his character is - in terms of job, reputation and family - and yet still somehow keeping you gripped by a fleeting sense that maybe there's a singular streak of good running through him which, whilst hardly promising any kind of redemption, at least puts him on a different side to the outright killers he is ultimately looking to take down. It's a choice role, like a weasel car salesman version of Michael Chiklis' equally career-defining Vic Mackey from The Shield.
Bacon is like a weasel car salesman version of Michael Chiklis' equally career-defining Vic Mackey from The Shield
The story has Bacon's old school, and flagrantly corrupt - but not in a nasty way, more in a charming way - FBI Agent facing a changing political landscape in Boston at the tail end of the 80s, and having to make some tough choices when given the opportunity to shine a spotlight on an armoured car robbery turned multiple murder; reluctantly working with Aldis Hodge's idealistic DA to try and solve the crime that nobody else really wants to touch.
What's interesting about City on a Hill - and it's here where you can really see Affleck's The Town at play - is that it builds a flavour for this whole Boston criminal underworld 'family', painting a much broader picture than just that of the police and FBI investigation, and spending a lot of time with the armed robbers, their wives, kids, families and own woes. To the point where you actually wonder how this is going to go down. It's not quite The Town in the sense that it is still arguably more on the side of the 'good guys', but - conversely - it paints Bacon's FBI Agent in such a shady light that you almost side with the criminals, and certainly see their family lives and relationships as being a whole lot more healthy (almost literally when it comes to potential STDs) than Bacon's 'charmer'.
The gang include the likes of Westworld's Jonathan Tucker, Mark O'Brien (in the upcoming Ready or Not), and Jimmy Cummings, the 'good guys' include Person of Interest's regulars Sarah Shahi and Kevin Chapman, and Amanda Clayton (Bleed for This) and Jill Hennessy (Exit Wounds) are superb as the loyal wives on either side of the coin.
Boston is a huge character in this piece, returning us to Affleck's influences and giving fans of The Town a whole season of wonderful scenery-chewing characters to lap up
But ultimately this is all Bacon all the way. He enjoys great chemistry with Aldis Hodge (despite the DA's home life, involving his partner's investigation into the sexual impropriety of a celebrated Reverend, being a little on the nose) and it's utterly compelling to watch the two swim these waters across the season, with the corrupt veteran finally using some of his manipulative skills for occasional bursts of genuine good, and grooming his reluctant protege to do the same, which doesn't sit well with him but is clearly the only way anything gets done in this town.
Boston is, of course, another huge character in this piece, colouring in every word spoken, and the whole family - and crime family - loyalty that underpins the saga, returning us to Affleck's influences and giving fans of The Town a whole season of wonderful scenery-chewing characters to lap up.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.