A hotspot for bank robberies, Charlestown, Boston, is the home of Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and his veteran gang of bank thieves. Along with childhood friends Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy (Slaine) and Dez (Owen Burke), MacRay pulls off a typically swift and brutal masked heist, during which they take bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage.
Releasing her soon after, the gang are nevertheless nervous that the local girl may have overheard something that could incriminate them, so much so that Doug begins following her. Doug soon crosses the line, however, when he asks Claire out. As the two become an item, Doug tries to keep the truth from the rest of the gang, particularly the unhinged Jem.
As the gang plan more robberies, and Doug secretly plans to leave his life of larceny behind, FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) closes in, using both Claire and Doug's ex (and Jem's sister) Krista (Blake Lively) as leverage.
Meanwhile, Doug's relationship with local crime kingpin Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite) deteriorates, leading to the gang's most ambitious robbery yet, and a tense showdown with both the law and the Boston Mob.
His second venture behind the camera following the excellent Gone Baby Gone, this convincingly hardcore crime thriller is quite possibly the high point of Affleck's career. Much like his directorial debut, this follow-up is shot in the Armageddon star's native Boston, perfectly capturing its gritty streets and blue collar culture.
Based on the book Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan (who is currently co-authoring a series of vampire novels with Guillermo del Toro), The Town's strength lies not only in the taut crime yarn at its core, but also the exemplary performances that bring the story to life. While Affleck all but killed off his acting career with a series of overblown blockbusters, as the gaunt and haunted MacRay he fulfils the early promise he showed in films such as Good Will Hunting.
The Hurt Locker star Renner is equally arresting, as is Hall and, in small yet extremely effective roles, the late Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper (as Doug's jailbird dad) are truly formidable. What's more, Hamm, acclaimed for playing Don Draper in Mad Men, is captivating as the hard-nosed and extremely dislikeable FBI man, his performance embodying the moral complexity at the heart of The Town.
While the actions of MacRay's crew are pretty savage, there are no clearly delineated good guys and bad guys. Where you are from defines who you are in Affleck's world and it's an outlook that informs all aspects of The Town, making it both a paean to the formative influence of Boston, and a cracking crime movie featuring several Oscar-worthy performances.