Apparently, Marvin Gaye masturbated frequently during the recording of What’s Going On so that he was sufficiently drained of carnal desires.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ben Affleck had a similar strategy between takes, particularly when starring in his own movie. Let’s face it directing yourself in itself requires a certain amount of self-love.

In The Town, Affleck  has permanent designer stubble and gives us a brief glimpse of his impressive abs to show that he’s still a hunk at heart but otherwise he plays the part of Doug in subdued post-coital mode.

His courtship with Claire (Rebecca Hall) is improbably free of clinches or heavy petting. They do have sex eventually but he certainly takes his time about it.

The improbable plot means that he is initially befriending her only to make sure she has no incriminating evidence against him and his gang of thieves. She had been taken as a hostage after a bank raid and later freed.

Affleck’s abs

All the robbers were wearing ghost masks but Jem (Jeremy Renner), one of his hot-headed partners, is spooked that she lives only a few blocks from their hideout.

Doug is a mild-mannered, calming influence and when the truth comes out he assures Claire that he only turned bad because his mother left when he was just a boy and his dad was a bona fide hoodlum.

The on-screen chemistry between Claire and Doug is non-existent which doesn’t help to make this contrived storyline any more credible.

Like his earlier and much more impressive directorial outing Gone Baby Gone, the setting is Affleck’s home town of Boston, Massachusetts. As with that movie he makes use of non-actors to give it a more Wire-like authenticity.

Gone Baby Gone, starring brother Casey, is a great movie because it is so tight and the story is plausible. The Town, adapted from Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, is all over the place because he can’t decide if it wants to be an action thriller, a gritty romance  or a social drama. It winds up in cinematic limbo land.

For all that, it is worth seeing for the fine ensemble performances which includes the late great Pete Postlethwaite in one of his final roles as the menacing crime lord who uses a florist’s shop as a front.