‘The Town’ unambiguous but still exciting

Director/Screenwriter/Actor Ben Affleck on location during the filming of Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' crime drama "The Town." Photo by Claire Folger. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Ben Affleck, against all odds, has proven himself to be a very capable director and screenwriter. While some of his past performances were suspect, this is not the Affleck of “Gigli” infamy. He is at his best when filming what he knows, namely the grittier side of Boston.

As a film, “The Town” has its ups and downs.  The story of a team of bank robbers in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, its strongest feature is its phenomenal cast. Besides Affleck, “The Town” features Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper and Victor Garber. Then there is a surprisingly decent if totally unintelligible Blake Lively, who really does try her hardest.

“The Town” is not as good as “Dog Day Afternoon” or even 2006’s “The Departed,” and its great moments come in spurts. It is sometimes sardonic, sometimes ironic and nearly always engaging, though it tends to drag toward its inevitable conclusion.

Affleck, however, certainly knows how to shoot action, and the heist and pursuit scenes are among the film’s best. When “The Town” veers into romance between Affleck and Hall’s characters, it nearly becomes saccharine, and try as it might to humanize Affleck’s bank robber with a heart, the relationship rings false. Renner, however, is extremely convincing as the ruthless leader of the gang of thieves.

While “The Town” is thrilling at times, it is also frustratingly unambiguous. The way that Affleck ends the story with everything tied into a neat package seems a little cheap. Despite its faults, however, “The Town” is still the most exciting film in a very long time and a worthy addition to the crime genre.

Sarah B. Pilchick may be contacted at sbpilchick@themiamihurricane.com.

Rating: 3/4 stars

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner

Directed By: Ben Affleck

MPAA Rating: R