What a film! "The Town" is a powerful testament to the skills of Ben Affleck, who did triple duty as the co-writer, director, and star of this taut, exciting crime-thriller. The film is set in Charlestown, the oldest neighborhood in the city of Boston, a one-square mile hotbed of drugs, muggings, armed robberies and other assorted nefarious activities. Affleck plays a member of a gang of second-generation criminals who were born and raised in ... and seemingly unable to escape from ... this toxic environment. Following a daring bank robbery, Affleck makes the mistake of falling in love with one of the bank's employees (Rebecca Hall), who is unaware that he was the thief who took her hostage during the heist. Complicating matters is the fact that the FBI is closing in, putting all sorts of pressure on the gang, particularly the violent hothead (Jeremy Renner) whose family took Affleck under their wing when his father went to prison. Now the gang is being pressured by an underworld kingmaker (Pete Postlethwaite) to pull off another huge, tremendously complicated and risky job.
Not only does Affleck do yeoman's service as an actor and director, he manages to pull amazing performances from the rest of the cast, especially Renner who received a boatload of Supporting Actor nominations, including bids for the Oscar and the Golden Globe. In his penultimate performance (he died before the movie was released), Pete Postlethwaite oozes barely contained menace, and actress Blake Lively is disturbingly effective as Renner's junkie sister. Kudos also to Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm (as a hard-nosed FBI agent), and Chris Cooper, who makes a strong impression in his brief scene as Affleck's bitter father.
There are numerous versions of the film available on video, including the theatrical cut, an extended cut, and a special collector's edition. I viewed the single-disc blu-ray, which offered both the theatrical version and the extended cut on the same disc. Many enthusiasts were concerned about the possibility of compression issues affecting this release, but I thought it looked and sounded fantastic. I'm usually kind of picky about such things, but I was so involved in the story and the performances that any flaws went unnoticed. "The Town" is a harbinger of a blossoming film talent that would come to fruition in Affleck's award-winning "Argo" two years later. Highly recommended.