Ben Affleck is one of those few stars that has been able to make the transition from early retiree to comeback kid, and my what a comeback he has made! I don’t see the same going for M. Night Shyamalan though…The Town is a film about a group of criminals that grew up in a part of Boston that makes more bank robbers than Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer make pop culture references. It focuses on one robber played by Ben Affleck, where after his crew rob a bank, take an employee hostage, then release her after the heist. They find out she lives near them and they suspect she could identify them. Ben Affleck’s character, Doug MacRay, desides he will watch to make sure she doesn’t. When he bumps into her at a laundromat they start to interact and become closer, from there problems ensue.The film is what you would consider to be your standard crime drama that deals with heist planning, police investigations, and climatic heist scenes. Its nothing we haven’t seen before and doesn’t make great strides in story telling. On the flip side though, this film manages to take every convention of the crime thriller and do it better than the vast majority of those films.Lets start off with the structure of the movie. The Town is off to a great start with a great cast, superb writing, which in fact was done by Ben Affleck. In case you did not know Ben has won an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting. Not only that, but this film is now Affleck’s second movie he has directed. The first was 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, which was also an excellent film that I highly suggest watching. Back to The Town though, with these two elements, The Town is able to reach far higher than it’s stock premise.More focused on the actors, I believe this should definitely earn some Oscar recognition for the performance by Affleck and supporting character Jeremy Renner, who plays James Coughlin, his trigger happy unrestrained childhood friend. Other actor worth noting is Blake Lively who effectively plays the drug addicted, skanky old flame of Doug Macray. Even more surprising about Blake’s performance is that she is from Gossip Girl fame which is quite a turn from teen melodrama If I don’t day so myslef. All the performances in this film were so well restrained from being over the top. Jeremy Renner’s character could have easily been over acted and too crazy but he held back enough outside emotion that it was played beautifully and intelligently. The same can be said for the rest of the cast including John Hamm, casted as the tough F.B.I. Agent Adam Frawley.Part of this achievement is due to Ben’s great direction. He knew that this wasn’t a unique story and was able to structure this film properly and avoid the same cliches that bog down so many of these types of films. He could have easily explored Agent Frawley’s story and painted him as a dirty cop or a bad family man, but decided to avoid that story arc that’s been exhausted. Other credits due to the great direction is also the action sequences. Each robbery scene is edited to great effect. They not only excite but add character development as well. Another element that adds more badassery to the robberies are the very effective masks they wear. I swear I’m gonna have nightmares about those nuns. There is even a great car chase that’s piss yo pants exciting by way of having a minivan navigating through small alley streets that are all over Boston. Affleck knows Boston and uses all the city has to offer to great effect. There are great panning shots of the city and the film just feels authentic. Double goes for Gone Baby Gone, which has the most believable extras I have ever seen. To further the evidence why this film rocks is the climatic shoot out. It is second, if not as good as Inception’s shootouts. It contains great staging and evokes a real sense of danger due to the circumstances that are displayed.All in all this is an intelligently crafted film that is one of the better movies of the year by a big margin. Though we are early in Oscar season I can’t see why this film wouldn’t merit at least a nomination for best actor, supporting actor, and especially best picture. Though this film is a familiar story and hits every plot point that a crime film of this type can hit, it still manages to feel fresh and keep you enthralled. Go see The Town, or ya wicked retaded!-Alex Tracy