Supposedly, the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston is a hotbed of armed bank robbers. No surprise, then, that this second feature from actor-turned-director Ben Affleck dumps us right in the middle of a job. The gang, headed by Doug McCray (Affleck), bumbles, taking the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) hostage. After her release, she's a person of interest -- for the FBI agent (Jon Hamm) assigned the case and for McCray, who needs to assess how dangerous a witness she is. McCray falls for her, and this sits uneasily with his gang pal James (Jeremy Renner). And as surely as Boston has beans, longtime "Town" relationships begin to unravel.
Like Affleck's earlier feature, Gone Baby Gone, Town is fast-paced, gritty and packed with Boston color. Its plot doesn't break any new ground -- with its tangle of class, aspiration and self-defeating blood allegiances among Boston's Irish-Americans, viewers may recall The Departed.
But Affleck is always a better actor when he can play closer to home, and The Town is also another notch in Renner's (The Hurt Locker) belt: His dead-eye portrayal of the seething, hurt and confused James is great. Likewise, Chris Cooper has one scene as McCray's hard-boiled father, but he owns it. For thrills, there are a couple of well-staged car chases in the heart of Boston, in which a lot of Beantown's fabled bad traffic was cleared so that there could even be a high-speed chase.
Too bad that the film lost me in its final third, with an improbable heist that seemed more designed to show off what Affleck could swing as a well-connected director rather than being organic to the story, and a conclusion that was a trifle pat.