09/17/2010 12:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Movie Review: The Town

If Gone Baby Gone wasn't proof enough that Ben Affleck could be a real filmmaker, here comes The Town to further establish his credentials -- and to reestablish him as a strong, vulnerable leading man.

Gripping and moving at the same time, The Town is a solid heist movie whose fleshed-out characters give the story the weight it requires to be more than just a caper film.

Based on a novel by Chuck Hogan (and adapted by Affleck, Aaron Stockard and Peter Craig), The Town is about a crew of armored-car and bank robbers, led by Doug MacRay (Affleck), who all hail from the Charlestown neighborhood in Boston -- supposedly the area of the U.S. that produces the most bank robbers per capita.

But something happens on the job that opens the film: Doug falls for Claire (Rebecca Hall), the bank manager, who they take hostage -- briefly -- because someone triggered the silent alarm. They release her unharmed, but Doug's excitable partner Jem (Jeremy Renner), is afraid she'll somehow implicate them to the FBI. He wants to eliminate her but Doug has other ideas.

Though supposedly assessing her as a threat, Doug instead finds himself drawn to her. So post-robbery and sans disguise, he maneuvers himself into a position to ask her out.

The untenable relationship blossoms, even as she is also mildly pursued by the FBI agent, Frawley (Jon Hamm), who is chasing MacRay and his crew. But MacRay is dealing with other baggage as well. He's a recovering alcoholic who sees in Claire the exit door from a lifestyle that no longer makes sense to him.

Getting out isn't that easy. He's lifelong friends with Jem and a former lover of Jem's skanky sister (Blake Lively). So any attempt to put them behind him is seen as a personal betrayal. He also has a father (Chris Cooper), another bank robber, who he visits in prison -- and who reminds him of the dangers of thinking above his station.

MacRay is in an untenable position. The FBI is getting closer, even as his relationship with Claire is heating up. Their future is less than uncertain; it's impossible. Yet he sees her as a source of his own salvation, though he knows he can't keep the truth from her forever.

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