Writer-director Ben Affleck convincingly demonstrates that Gone Baby Gone was no fluke with this hard-hitting heist thriller. He plays Doug MacRay, a blue collar Boston worker who has a lucrative sideline robbing the city's banks with a regular crew including his psychotic buddy Jem (Jeremy Renner). However, when he finds himself falling for robbery victim Rebecca Hall he begins to question his criminal vocation. A fast-moving, fluid action outing lent added weight with some gritty performances from Affleck, Renner and Pete Postlethwaite as a particularly venal Irish florist.
The Town is Charlestown. A square mile block of Boston's disadvantaged underbelly that has the dubious accolade of one of the armed robbery capitals of the world.
Shouldering their fair share of the bank-jacking business is a tight-knit gang led by Doug MacRay (Affleck), an Irish-American heist-meister raised alongside fellow crewman Jem (Renner) after his dad was banged up and his mum committed suicide.
Their modus operandi is slick and stylish: a short, sharp and violent assault on a bank or armoured car and a swift withdrawal, their faces hidden by an inspired choice of mask ranging from apocalyptic skulls to zombiefied nuns.
However, during one raid their well-rehearsed spiel goes awry and they suspect that bank employee Claire Keesey (Hall) may have clocked them. MacRay has the solution - he'll get to know her and find out exactly how much she knows.
OK, so it' s bit of a hokey premise...but Affleck builds it into a just-about-believable story with MacRay - who has already tired of his high-risk lifestyle - falling for the no-nonsense Claire while Jem - a powderkeg of barely-suppressed rage - won't countenance his surrogate brother quitting the family firm.
Added complications are the attention of suspicious FBI officer Adam Frawley (Mad Men's John Hamm) and the resentment of MacRay's on-off totty Krista (Lively), who's not going to stand by as she loses her man.
The dark drama of Gone Baby Gone is replaced by machine-tooled, adrenalin-pumping action courtesy of three robbery setpieces - the bank, an armoured truck and an audacious raid on the city's Fenway Park baseball stadium.
Affleck's MacRay is a succinctly-drawn character-in-crisis, disillusioned by the limited avenues of a professional crimmo yet emotionally indebted to the crime family that raised him.
Ultimately, it's further proof that Affleck - after the professional doldrums of the Bennifer years - is fulfilling the promise of Good Will Hunting and is a writer/director totally in command of his subject.
Have a night on the town...