Yesterday, PJ and I went to see Ben Affleck‘s new movie, The Town, which is based on a novel, Prince of Thieves, by Chuck Hogan. Affleck directed, co-wrote, and stars in the movie, about four friends from Charlestown, Massachusetts, who rob a bank in Cambridge. When Affleck’s character decides to check up on the hostage they brief took during the robbery, he finds himself slowly becoming involved with her, which causes complications when he and his pals decide to pull one more heist. Here’s the trailer:

I really enjoyed The Town. It’s interesting that some of the movie blogs I read seem to judge every movie by its Oscar potential as if all movies are trying to win Best Picture and several acting awards. One of the things I like about The Town is that it doesn’t feel like Affleck is trying to get a Best Picture or Best Actor or Best Director nod. It feels like he’s just trying to make a good, entertaining movie. And he succeeds admirably.

I think The Town is a good, old-fashioned caper movie. Affleck’s character, Doug MacRay, has joined his father’s business, so to speak. And he’s really good at it. Consequently, he’s the brains behind the operation, the one who keeps his cool and know what to do if things start going wrong.

Jeremy Renner plays James Coughlin, the hot head of the group. He tends to shoot first and ask questions later. He’s already served nine years for murder, a crime he committed to save MacRay from a hit. MacRay also used to date his sister, so and he Affleck’s character share a bond like brothers.

Rebecca Hall plays Claire, the woman Coughlin takes as a hostage in the film’s opening robbery. She’s having difficulty dealing with the ordeal, and so when MacRay shows up and starts charming her she slowly opens up to him about it. Once Claire discovers who MacRay really is, she is particularly good as the woman caught between following her heart or her head.

And finally, Jon Hamm rounds out the primary cast. He plays the FBI agent, Adam Frawley, determined to take MacRay and his gang down. Hamm plays Frawley as a little too invested in winning this combat. He seems to make it personal. Consequently, he’ll stop at nothing to catch these crooks. I liked how the movie effectively made us like the criminal, MacRay, and casts the cop as the villain without making the latter explicitly crooked or an addict or something.

Affleck is excellent as MacRay. He’s strong and fiercely determined to survive at almost any cost, but he’s also romantic and tender-hearted as he falls in love with Claire. He’s certainly in the best shape he’s ever been in — there’s an early workout scene that, unless it’s a body double, shows that Affleck has really been hitting the gym for this part. Renner is also great as Coughlin. He’s walks the line between psychotic and just plain mean really well. Blake Lively and Chris Cooper are also good in small, but important roles.

There are a couple of plot points, especially late in the film, that seem a little too incredible. But all in all, The Town is a very entertaining and well-directed movie. I definitely enjoyed it. And who knows — maybe it will get a couple of award nominations after all. Renner, in particular, seems deserving of a Supporting Actor nod, and if it turns out to be a weaker than usual race for Best Actor, Affleck would have a shot at a nomination too.

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