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Ben Affleck has so thoroughly reinvented himself as an actor that it's tempting to take for granted his commendable skills as a director even after his notable debut with "Gone Baby Gone" (2007).
Affleck straightforwardly plays Boston criminal-with-a-heart-of-gold Doug MacRay, in a film he co-wrote with Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard. Although the story, based on Chuck Hogan's 2004 novel "Prince of Thieves," dips into fantasyland on more than one occasion, the direction is precise as clockwork and tempered with plenty of stylistic flourishes.
Set in the distinctive Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, a largely Irish-American breeding ground for more bank and armored-car robbers than anywhere else in the country, four well-acquainted thieves commit a bank heist that necessitates taking into hostage the bank's manager Claire Keesey.
Up-and-comer Rebecca Hall ("Vicki Christina Barcelona") is alluring as Claire, the unfortunate bank administrator left traumatized after her release by the masked bandits. The drama ratchets up once FBI Special Agent Frawley (well played by John Hamm) launches a soup-to-nuts investigation that puts the cozy burb of Charlestown under a microscope.
Rated R. 123 mins.
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