The Town, Ben Affleck's second directorial effort, is a well-crafted, smart crime thriller with an emotional edge. It has a deserved shot at a best-picture Oscar nomination.
Affleck stars as Doug MacRay, who leads a gang of robbers from the Charlestown section of Boston, an area known for its many bank heists. During one robbery, they take the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), hostage, but they release her unharmed.
But pulling off jobs in your neighborhood can have its downside, and one day, Doug spots Claire at a local laundry. They had worn masks, but the robbers, particularly Doug's best friend, Jim (Jeremy Renner), are worried she'll somehow recognize them. Not one looking for trouble and afraid that the volatile Jim might resort to violence, Doug decides to check her out.
He's intrigued. There is a social gap between them. She's educated; he's a blue-collar guy. But she's not snobbish, and he's smart, even sensitive, but he comes from a tough town, and his father (Chris Cooper) is serving life in prison.
Doug can't escape his own prison, so he sticks around Boston, goes to A.A. meetings, unenthusiastically sleeps with Jim's sister (Blake Lively) and dreams of escaping to Florida. Meanwhile, Jon Hamm's FBI agent is dedicated to catching the gang, which has hit a series of banks.
As he grows fonder of Claire, Doug tries to pull away from the gang. But to make his dreams come true, and to sate Jim's thirst, Doug is forced to do another job -— this one around Fenway Park, which gave Red Sox fan Affleck a chance to have some fun.
Boston has been the scene of many crime movies — The Departed and The Friends of Eddie Coyle are two of the best — and The Town, which will be released Friday, ranks right up there, combining solid acting with terrific action in a gritty, realistic atmosphere.
The Town retails for $28.98 or $35.99 on Blu-ray.