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Heist Heist Baby 

Ben Affleck goes to town in new crime thriller

Ben Affleck proves that Gone Baby Gone, his sensational 2007 directorial debut, wasn’t a fluke with his equally impressive -- if a tad more conventionally plotted -- follow-up. Based on an acclaimed crime novel by Chuck Hogan, The Town examines what happens when Beantown bank robber Doug MacRay (Affleck, very good here) falls for his former hostage (Rebecca Hall). (Conveniently, she doesn’t recognize him from the heist because the thieves were all wearing masks.) With the FBI, led by a steely Jon Hamm (Mad Men), breathing down his neck, and hotheaded criminal cohort Jem (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner) itching to pull the trigger on any potential witnesses -- including his buddy’s new girlfriend -- Doug’s decision to go straight runs into some perilous roadblocks. Once again shooting on location in some of Boston’s least touristy working-class neighborhoods, Affleck brings a startling degree of verisimilitude and white-knuckle intensity to pulp-fiction material that might have seemed like just another standard-issue Hollywood cops-and-robbers flick in the hands of a lesser director. The performances -- including an unrecognizable Blake Lively from Gossip Girl and Oscar winner Chris Cooper as Doug’s convict dad -- are beyond reproach. --Milan Paurich

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