Who's In It: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper
The Basics: Four lifelong friends, all criminals, stage a series of heists. The boss they work for has some secrets of his own they wouldn't like, an FBI guy relentlessly hunts them and a woman they kidnapped might be the instrument of their demise. In other words, everyone's predictably shady in that way crime-people always are. That you won't be able to predict what's going to happen to any of them is the payoff.
What's The Deal: I'm going to pretend that this movie isn't called The Town, with all the authoritative social commentary baggage that goes along with that. It's awesome entertainment but it's not going down in film history as anyone's idea of a definitive statement on life in Boston. Or even life in the specific neighborhoods where the action goes down. Because if it were then we'd all have to assume that every single person there is a lowlife criminal. Maybe they could have labeled it like generic dog food and called it Three Really Rad Heists Committed by Ben Affleck and His Buddies and, No, Blake Lively Isn't Annoying at All. Anyway, it's got big ambitions and a lot of characters and director Affleck juggles them all in a dark, tense, exciting way. Crime hasn't looked this cool in a while.
"In Amity They Say Yaaahhhhd": There's not one instance of Julianne Moore on 30 Rock taking place in this movie. The Boston dialect is possibly even more difficult to capture properly in movies than all the regional Southern ones. If Julia Roberts sounds more like she's from Georgia (she is) than Texas (she isn't) in Charlie Wilson's War, no one seems to mind all that much. That's because Southern accents are softer. But the minute you affect a wrong-mouthed New England accent, people's ears begin to bleed. So that's worth noting. In fact, if you aren't accustomed to these speech patterns there are moments when you might find yourself wishing for subtitles.
What You Might Hate About It If You're Thinking Too Much: It's a strong, entertaining heist movie. But it's also set in a region of Boston where poverty creates the characters you're seeing. And Affleck's other movie, Gone Baby Gone, lived in the same world but involved a lot more empathy over the despair people feel when life hasn't gone the way they wanted. This one feels more pulpy and, therefore, possibly more exploitive. Then again, no one would pay to see a movie about a happy middle-class Boston family with no problems and no really cool plans to rob Fenway Park.
Who Really Needs To See This: My brother. He was one of the hundreds of thousands of mainstream moviegoers tricked into seeing The American by a TV spot that featured guns and action, audiences who had the rug pulled out from under them when the reels hit the projector and they were handed a brooding arthouse film instead. I know this because he texted me and said that George Clooney had ruined "date night" with his wife. As hilarious as I think that scenario must have looked like ("The walkouts were a parade in the aisles," said one friend who also went opening weekend), it's always better when people feel like they were given what they were promised. This one delivers the date night goods.