In his second directorial feature, Ben Affleck proves that his first -- 2007's taut crime thriller Gone Baby Gone -- was no beginner's luck. Affleck explores the same genre again -- but this time around, he's wearing even more hats -- as director, co-writer and star of The Town. And he excels at all tasks -- in this gripping tale of intense action (some quite violent) interwoven with romance.
Set within the tough streets of Charlestown, Massachusetts, the film's plot revolves around four friends who are team of expert bank thieves. Affleck is the crew's chief, Doug -- with Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as Jem, a bit of a loose cannon. Things get a bit complicated when the masked crew takes bank employee Claire (Vicky Cristina Barcelona's Rebecca Hall) as a hostage during one Boston heist. She's released unharmed, but the crew decides they must keep on eye on her -- just in case she starts talking to the Feds. Soon after, Doug and the unknowing Claire strike up a romance -- and he finally has just cause to turn his life around. But will Claire find out the truth, ending Doug's plans?
Based on Chuck Hogan's novel "Prince of Thieves," the film boasts strong performances by all the leads and supporting cast. Jon Hamm (TV's Mad Men) portrays the FBI agent pursuing a case against the criminals. Blake Lively plays troubled drug addict Krista, Jem's sister and Doug's ex-girlfriend. It's quite a departure for Lively -- who stars on TV's Gossip Girl. And although we don't see a lot of her, Lively is surprisingly believable in the gritty role. The drama also stars the consistently great Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father) and Chris Cooper (Adaptation). Now that the traditional summer fluff is behind us, it's time for movies to get serious again. Thankfully, The Town kicks off the fall season in fine fashion. [Rated R; opens today]
- You may recall that Blake Lively was the guest host of the Saturday Night Live show I attended last year. Click here for more on that adventure.
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- Upcoming reviews include my thoughts on two October releases -- The Social Network (aka, the Facebook movie) and the Bruce Willis-starrer RED.