Affleck directs himself, playing Doug, a failed hockey pro now boosting armored cars with his trigger-happy friend Jimmy (Jeremy Renner), though for different reasons. Jimmy's a dead-end lifer whose ambitions end five blocks from the house he grew up in, and Doug's looking for enough money to bankroll a new start.
"The Town" opens briskly with the gang in Skeletor masks robbing a branch bank and terrorizing its workers, including a pretty manager (Rebecca Hall) who briefly becomes a hostage. Jimmy sees her as a loose end and wants to kill her, but Doug proposes surveillance, to see if she's working with the feds.
This leads to a friendship, then a romance, with Doug holding the soapy secret that her new lover is her former abductor.
Unrealistic, you say, and that's true. But the chemistry between Hall and Affleck, between Affleck and Renner (the movie's other relationship story), is very real, and the movie's loopy plot turns are very much in the old-fashioned spirit of the piece.
Affleck, who seemed to tire of acting several years ago, has remade himself as a director - in "Gone Baby Gone" he showed a real talent for story, pacing, handling actors. In "The Town" he improves his action chops, borrowing (like everybody else) from Kathryn Bigelow and Michael Mann.
And Affleck, let's not forget, is an Oscar-winning screenwriter. He knows how to spot and frame a good line, and "The Town" is full of them (adapted by Affleck and his writers from the novel "Prince of Thieves" by Chuck Hogan).
My favorite: Jon Hamm's FBI war-room reference to al Qaeda.
Hamm has fun as Doug's all-business FBI adversary, and there are choice roles also for Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper, who probably gives the year's best two-minute performance as Doug's incarcerated father.