As they’d say in Boston, “The Town” is a wicked pissah. It succeeds in its quest to appeal to everyone from townies to “toonies” in telling a familiar cops-and-robbers tale in remarkably inventive ways. What you take from it, though, is a new appreciation for Ben Affleck’s dexterity as a filmmaker and actor.

As they’d say in Boston, “The Town” is a wicked pissah. Easily one of the best films of the year, it succeeds in its quest to appeal to everyone from townies to “toonies” in telling a familiar cops-and-robbers tale in remarkably inventive ways.


What you take from it, though, is a new appreciation for Ben Affleck’s dexterity as a filmmaker and actor. He lifts both facets of his career to unprecedented levels of excellence in adapting Canton novelist Chuck Hogan’s “Prince of Thieves” into a thoroughly engrossing yarn, rife with intense action, great acting and vibrant characters.


Above all, it’s a twofold romance between a man and woman, and a man and the city he grew up in. Affleck is at the center of both, most obviously as the handsome, charismatic bank robber, Doug MacRay, who – darn the luck – falls for the one woman who could land him and his crew in the same federal penitentiary as his bitter, angry father, played by Chris Cooper in the year’s most riveting cameo. But it’s Affleck’s love for the Hub, and its many landmarks and traditions, that sets the heart racing.


Like his scripts for “Gone Baby Gone” and “Good Will Hunting,” Affleck takes you to the grittiest, most dangerous parts of the city, where arguments are settled with fists and guns, and suckers never get an even break.


With the erstwhile assistance of director of photography Robert Elswit (“There Will Be Blood”), he paints a robust portrait of a city whose many pleasures and faults can be encapsulated in one of its most blue-collar neighborhoods, Charlestown.


According to the opening titles, the densely populated square mile surrounding the Bunker Hill Monument is home to more bank robberies per capita than anywhere in the nation.


Affleck duly shows us why, as Doug and his gang cleverly carry out a handful of daring heists, with Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver’s doggedly determined FBI agents in hot pursuit.


But Affleck also smartly takes the time to show us the ins and outs of Charlestown’s criminal culture, while deftly juxtaposing the neighborhood’s physical beauty (especially the scenes along the waterfront) with its seedier underbelly, namely its notorious public housing projects.


And although the film’s ending is somewhat ludicrous and the Bahston accents are hit or miss (with Jeremy Renner of “The Hurt Locker” and Blake Lively of “Gossip Girl” representing opposite ends of the “arr”-dropping spectrum), Affleck goes out of his way to inject his movie with heavy doses of realism.


That includes the seemingly implausible romance Doug strikes up with a neighborhood “toonie” (Charlestown vernacular for carpetbagging yuppies) named Claire, who’s played by the beautiful Brit Rebecca Hall.


It’s easy to understand why this hardened criminal would suddenly go soft in her presence. She’s everything a bank robber dreams about. But because she’s the manager of the lending institution Doug and his three masked pals just knocked over, she’s also his worst nightmare.


Yet he pursues her, knowing that if and when she discovers he really isn’t the sand-and-gravel professional he claims to be, she could rat him out to Hamm’s stern but persuasive Special Agent Frawley.


Affleck and his co-scripters, Aaron Stockard and Peter Craig, do a marvelous job of creating a romance that is as passionate as it is tenuous, as you wait nervously for the other shoe to drop. And one of the reasons it’s so compelling is the strong chemistry between Affleck and Hall.


The same is true of Affleck and Renner, playing Doug’s hair-triggered and dimwitted compadre in crime, Jem. You believe that they would do anything for each other, including serve time, as Jem once did after going to bat for his bud, who may – or may not – be the father of the baby popped out by Jem’s younger sister, Krista, played by a tarted-up Lively.


While the story is sustained by the various relationships and the underlying themes of loyalty and legacy, its Affleck’s well-honed gift for directing action that provides the movie with its juice.


That includes three terrifically constructed robbery sequences, including an armored car heist that ends with an exciting chase that would make Peter Yates (“Bullitt”) and William Friedkin (“The French Connection”) jealous.


But the pièce de résistance is a climactic caper involving Fenway Park, or as Pete Postlethwaite’s elderly crime boss refers to it, “The Cathedral of Boston.” No fair giving anything away, but suffice to say the scene, like the rest of the movie, is guaranteed to knock your Sox off.


Al Alexander may be reached at aalexander@ledger.com.