If you’d like to see a preposterous, movie about cops and robbers that glamorizes violent criminals then by all means run out and go see The Town. Otherwise, save your money.

Ben Affleck is Doug MacRay, the head of a bank robbery crew in Charlestown, Boston, which at the beginning of the film we’re told has the distinction of having produced the most bank robbers in the U.S. During one of these robberies, Doug and his gang take a hostage, Claire Keesey played by Rebecca Hall and later release her unharmed. As it turns out, Claire lives in the neighborhood and Doug decides to follow her and find out how much she knows or remembers about the incident. Of course, he becomes involved with her and complications ensue. One of them being that there is absolutely no chemistry between the two actors.

There are so many things wrong with The Town I don’t know where to begin. But, I’ll start with the fact that the entire time I was watching it, I knew I was watching a movie. There is the orchestrated heartfelt moment when Doug describes to Claire the morning he discovered that his mother had left him and his father. I know I should be touched but instead I’m bored and can clearly see the strings being intentionally pulled. This is the moment where I’m supposed to understand and forgive all of Doug’s crimes because his mother left him when he was six years old. Guess what? I don’t give a crap. Your childhood trauma doesn’t give you a pass to run around robbing banks with automatic weapons.

I’m all for complicated, flawed characters but I have a problem with the fact that Doug is on the one hand a cool and experienced criminal capable of pulling off an armored car heist in the middle of the day, but is then portrayed as some type of misunderstood Robin Hood who is simply a victim of circumstances and the “evil” neighborhood drug dealer who is running the show. We’re meant to root for him and his buddies and laugh at the FBI, who are portrayed as Wile E. Coyote idiots. It is ridiculously unbelievable how many times these guys manage to evade the police despite seemingly having the entire police force after them and even more incredible, how bullets seem to bounce off them.

Jon Hamm, whose square-jawed, good looks and low-key intensity serve him so well as Don Draper on Mad Men is way in over his head here. He isn’t for one second believable as an FBI agent determined to bring MacRay’s crew down. This is especially glaring in an interrogation room scene with him and Ben Affleck that is intended to be intense but which comes off as laughable because you can see him straining with the dialogue. Once again, though, Jeremy Renner delivers. There isn’t a false note in his performance as Doug’s impulsive and hotheaded best friend and partner in crime, James Coughlin.

Maybe I’ve seen one too many bank heist movies because there’s definitely a feeling of déjà vu starting with the masks the crew wear, to the guy who wants out, the good girl caught in the middle, the loose cannon best friend, and the shoot out action scenes. The problem is that in this case I don’t buy it. The Town wants to be a gritty, realistic, urban morality story and have a fairy tale ending. But, you can’t have it both ways and that is what finally does the movie in.

For those of you who would like to see a great film where criminal actions actually have consequences, rent Angels with Dirty Faces with James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Pat O’Brien, a 1938 classic that still holds up. Or, if you prefer another film set in Boston that totally pulls you in from the start and doesn’t let go, watch Mystic River again.

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