The story of THE TOWN is kind of a staple of the genre—the veteran robber trying to get out of the game, torn between love, his friends and his God given talents—but it's executed compellingly and almost flawlessly, with a sense of effortlessness that makes it exciting and entertaining to watch unfold. Adapted from Chuck Hogan's novel "Prince of Thieves," Affleck's crime saga is a tale that's as much about its setting as it is the actual plot. Boston is a driving force throughout the movie and more of a character than just a bunch of accents, lending its famous locales like Fenway Park for the thrilling climax or its narrow streets for an exciting car chase. Charlestown, the titular location, is portrayed in the film as a territorial haven for criminals built on loyalty and Affleck does a great job bringing an authentic edge to these scenes that makes the neighborhood feel alive and intimidating.
As a heist film, THE TOWN does not disappoint. Even the actual robbery scenes, though few in number, are thrilling and interesting. You'd think after decades of news stories and countless film portrayals there'd be little left to bring to the table but the thieves in this movie are smart and in command to the point that it's legitimately fun seeing how they're going to get away with it. It's less glamorous OCEAN'S ELEVEN and more realistic HEAT, which is a good thing given the gritty nature of the film. Aside from stealing stuff, there's more to keep things exciting and tense in the face of all the drama—a great cat and mouse dynamic between Affleck's gang and Hamm's FBI unit, an enthralling interrogation room scene, a well-shot car chase and some surprisingly violent scenes. The film is definitely brutal and intense in spots, but it balances it well with a little bit of humor from Affleck's charming character.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing Affleck has done in THE TOWN, however, is to put together one of the best casts of the year. Affleck himself is just as good on the screen as he is calling the shots off screen. His Doug is weathered after a career of crime, but still has a spark of life that makes his romantic escape with Rebecca Hall's Claire enjoyable. (The romance subplot doesn't drag, thank God.) Jeremy Renner follows up his star making turn in THE HURT LOCKER with another intense performance as the unpredictable wild card of Affleck's team. Renner is a force here, crazed, temperamental and highly watchable. Jon Hamm does serious work as the no-nonsense agent out for justice (joined by "Lost's" Man in Black, Titus Welliver) and his scenes toying with Affleck and his crew are a blast. Chris Cooper and the late Pete Posthelwaite also have small but memorable roles, but it's "Gossip Girl's" Blake Lively who surprises the most. Lively is legitimately great in her small part, equally trashy and tragic, and impressive enough to change my mind about her talents. Amazingly enough, there's not a weak link in the group and the dynamic between the characters are vivid and gripping, especially between Affleck and Renner and Affleck and Hall.
I should mention that this is a review of the unrated extended cut, which adds a solid half hour of extra footage. It doesn't feel disjointed and even adds a few good scenes and character moments, but at two and a half hours the pace does feel noticeably slower than with the theatrical version.
Commentary by Ben Affleck: Affleck is entertaining and comes across well, but if you were expecting the constantly wise-cracking actor from Kevin Smith movie commentaries than you may be a tad bit disappointed. But once you get over the straightforward manner that comes with his new career, you'll find an informative track that covers all his roles making the film, working with the cast, production stories and more. Affleck also records his thoughts for the extended segments, so you don't have to worry about any silence.
Ben's Boston: This six-part making of feature is available separately from the menu or can be watched via branching during the movie itself. They total about half and hour of material and tackles pretty much everything you expect: Affleck and his work as both actor and director (and writer!), filming on location in Boston, shooting the robberies, the history of the area and more. You can also access these from the menu
Extra Tidbit: Look out for a cameo by Victor Garber, who played the badass Jack Bristow on "Alias," alongside Affleck’s wife Jennifer Garner.