THE TOWN. Warner Bros., 2010. Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite. Adapted from Chuck Hogan’s 2004 novel Prince of Thieves. Director: Ben Affleck. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

   It begins with a bank heist in Boston. Well-choreographed, with director Ben Affleck in full control of a fluid situation, The Town starts off with unbridled action. It sparks and sizzles with furious electricity, reminiscent of other bank robbery/heist films, most notably Michael Mann’s Heat (1995). And with a few exchanged glances between robber and captive, the plot becomes clear. This is primarily to be a movie about the relationship between a bank robber and the female assistant bank manager whom he forced into opening the vault at gunpoint. That will form the core of the tale yet to unfold.

   Ben Affleck, who stars as well directs, portrays “Doug” MacRay, a long-term resident of the Charlestown section of north Boston, with the city almost becoming a fundamental character in the list of players. He, along with his friend Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), were raised in near poverty in the townie Irish neighborhood and now lead a crew of thieves. Reporting to local kingpin Fergie Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), they are skilled professionals who are willing to use threats of violence to achieve their objectives.

   All this begins to change when Doug begins to fall for his former hostage Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). Although he initially follows her around to see what she knows about the bank robbery he took part in, Doug slowly begins to imagine getting out of his life of crime and creating a new one with her. Complicating matters is Doug’s former flame, oxycontin addict Kris Coughlin (an underutilized Blake Lively), who also happens to be Jem’s sister. Not to mention the two persistent local FBI agents on his trail.

   Overall, this is a solid crime drama – with the emphasis on drama. Although there are action sequences, including a suspenseful third act robbery sequence filmed on location near Fenway Park, the film’s primary focus is on the relationships between the characters. While the complicated relationship between Doug and Claire is the central focus of the story, Doug’s decidedly mixed feelings toward his father also plays a prominent role in the narrative.

   Unfortunately, what prevents this heist film from being anything overly exceptional is the film’s reliance on too many outworn tropes. The forced sentimentalism designed to make the viewer feel sympathy for Doug occasionally feels cheap.

   Without giving anything away, let’s just say that the final ten minutes or so of the movie in particular feels artificial. It’s not that what you see couldn’t have happened; rather, it’s the way that it’s visually presented that could feel grating, especially to crime film aficionados. The ending feels at once tragically inevitable and completely out of left field. Similarly, it’s somehow off-putting to have such an ambiguously tidy ending to an emotionally messy and nuanced film.

   Affleck is a skillful director who gets the most out of his exceptionally talented cast, including Victor Garber (Alias), who has a brief cameo as a hostage, and veteran character actor Chris Cooper who portrays his incarcerated father. There are some flourishes that I found distracting, such as his tendency to repeatedly use drone footage of Boston to remind the viewer where the film was set (as if anyone would forget?) and his decision to employ grimy black and white cinematography for flashbacks.

   But don’t let that stop you from watching this one. Affleck’s immersion in his character, Boston accent and all, is near complete. Directing oneself is not always the humblest of tasks. He pulls it off with sincerity.