Ben Affleck megs & stars as the brainy member of a Boston-based brotherly band of bank robbers. The main twist in the story brings Affleck into contact with a pretty witness to their last heist, and then falling for her. Now, he’s getting squeezed on all sides: from the investigating cops & F.B.I.; from his hotheaded pal who wants another quick score; from the big boss who won’t let him quit; from his old girlfriend who wants him back; and even from the new girl who’s getting suspicious. While the violence, swearing & bared skin all hit modern thresholds (and the camera roams about in current default mode), this is decidedly old-fashioned filmmaking in its construction, in its carefully ‘rhymed’ pay-offs and in the neat action sequences that put plausibility (and character) ahead of CGI effects. It’s not hard to see why this caught on. But like that neighborhood joint that’s still dishing up the same old hash, the drama feels both comforting & pre-digested. Maybe if Affleck were a more resourceful actor, we might not notice. But steely looks & a dropped voice for sensitivity are all he’s got. (Not counting the showy muscle-bound exercise montage he indulges himself in as director.) The girlfriends, Rebecca Hall & Blake Lively, look ready for anything, even in their largely reflexive roles, but what’s with Jeremy Renner’s award-mongering as the trigger-happy pal? Anyway, they’re all blown off the screen whenever Jon Hamm’s G-man shows up. He puts out so much natural screen presence it throws the story resolution out of whack.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For a real whiff of Boston mob lowlife, try Peter Yates’ fine (and still little seen) THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE/’73 with masterful perfs from Bob Mitchum & Richard Jordan.