There's nothing better than a good heist movie with a heart and Chuck Hogan's novel 'Prince of Thieves', set in the underworld of Boston's Charlestown, provides the perfect starting point for such a film.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) has maybe pushed his luck too far. He's one heist away from getting too greedy and ruining it all. But walking away, like he plans, isn't as easy as just deciding to go straight, not when there's a gang (Renner, Slaine, Burke) involved and they think that you owe them. So MacRay tows the line against his better judgement and boards the getaway van for the latest bank raid.

But it's not the slick affair they had planned and when a bank employee hits the panic button there isn't time to 'clean up' the witnesses before making a break for safety. Unfortunately for Claire Keesey (Hall), she is that key witness and MacRay must track her down to find out what she knows and how she can be contained.

Meanwhile, sleazy FBI agent Adam Frawley (Hamm) and his team are determined to break the gang and put them away, but outsmarting MacRay and his boys is becoming mission impossible. On the fringes of the story, MacRay's doped-up ex Krista (Lively), whose brother Jem (Renner) is in the gang, is sniffing around in a dangerous fashion, 'florist' Fergie (Postlethwaite) is leading the charge for Boston's Irish community living outside the law and MacRay's semi-estranged father (Cooper) is currently doing time.

Like all of the best stories, the crew is motley and fractured. MacRay sees a chance for getting away from the vicious circle of life on the wrong side of the tracks in his hometown but the brotherly ties of obligation from the neighbourhood are strong.

Ben Affleck does powerful work both on screen and in the director's chair here. Like his directorial debut 'Gone Baby Gone', you can really feel the heart of the community and the bonds, however shady, that tie the characters together. His sidekicks, Jeremy Renner and Slaine in particular, are convincing, menacing and everything else that they need to be, while Rebecca Hall delivers a decent leading lady performance. John Hamm and Pete Postlethwaite are also wonderfully cast as the smart-ass agent and cocky criminal respectively, but 'Gossip Girl's Blake Lively seems to struggle a bit with her trashy attitude and image, at times coming off overwhelmed by it all.

Gritty, but with enough humour to stop it from being grim, 'The Town' combines entertaining car chases and shoot-outs with real human quandaries and manages to serve up a mix of adrenaline and heart. It's gripping, funny and charged, and is further proof (following the aforementioned 'Gone Baby Gone') that Affleck has plenty to offer with the right material.

Linda McGee