Ben Affleck’s excellent crime thriller The Town returns to Blu-ray in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition that makes the double dip not feel like a crime.
Worth the upgrade to fans of the film, the Blu-ray comes loaded with features – including both the theatrical and extended cut of the film, an alternate ending, a poster of the film’s setting with notes from the film, FBI reports on the characters, mug shots, employee files and even a rub-on tattoo sheet.
The Blu-ray also comes with some expected features that take you into the making of the movie, profile Affleck and commentary. There is also a 48-page book featuring behind the scene photos and filmmakers notes.
Based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves with a screenplay by Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard (who also had a hand in the screenplay for Gone Baby Gone with Affleck), The Town has a look and feel that screams from the streets with a plot following a gang of thieves who are blue-collar likeable with a deadly violence just under the skin.
The film stars Affleck (proving his acting skills are on par with that of his directing ability), Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner (in another intense breakout performance), Blake Lively, Slaine, Owen Burke, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper, and Dennis McLaughlin.
The film also benefits from the tight cinematography of Robert Elswit (Salt) and the film editing of Dylan Tichenor (There Will Be Blood). Both help the film maintain its focus and entertainment as Elswit keeps the violence of the robbery scenes in the audiences’ face to remind us that these are not nice people and Tichenor keeps the tension and pace tight throughout the entire movie.
In a lot of ways, The Town reminded me of Michael Mann’s Heat (one of my favorite crime films) due to the use of its city setting (Boston in place of Los Angeles) as another of the film’s characters and its theme of a thief looking at having to decide between one more big score or finding a chance for love and a normal life.
The film opens with some information about the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston – which is known for churning out the most bank and armored car thieves of anywhere in the country. As if to illustrate the point, we then get to see some of these thieves in action as Affleck’s Doug MacRay and his three friends take down a bank.
His gang consists of his childhood friend James Coughlin (Renner), Albert ‘Gloansy’ Magloan (Slaine), Desmond Elden (Burke). The gang has been together for a long time and move as a well-oiled machine. They storm the bank and quickly get into the vault through intimidation and beating a bank employee. It is clear they have no qualms about hurting or killing anyone in their way.
As a safety precaution Coughlin grabs bank manager Claire Keesey (Hall) as a hostage as they make their getaway. After a quick debate in the getaway van (which shows some of the tension and power struggle between McCray and Coughlin), the gang agrees to let Keesey go after they have reach the safety of their Charlestown neighborhood (where no one sees anything and no one talks to the cops).
F.B.I. agent Adam Frawley (Hamm showing a little less charm than his Don Draper character from television’s Mad Men) takes on the bank robbery case and quickly figures the thieves came from Charlestown – an area he seems to truly despise.
With his partner and Charlestown native Dino Ciampa (Welliver), Frawley starts rounding up the usual suspects for the bank job, questions whether Keesey (also a Charlestown resident) might have been in on the robbery, and eventually finds his way to McCray’s gang of pals. He also seems to develop some kind of attraction to Keesey, but to me it came off as kind of creepy and a tad crossing the line.
As Frawley starts putting the pieces together, Affleck spends the rest of the time letting the audience get to know McCray and his gang of outlaws. It seems they all have some kind of troubled youth or criminal family pedigree.
McCray’s father is in prison serving a life-sentence for robbery, his mother abandoned him as a child (the audience discovers more truth to this story as the film plays out), and McCray grew up in Coughlin’s home.
He also had a romantic fling with Coughlin’s sister Krista (Lively) and could possibly be the father of her child – though McCray points out that he is one in a long list of suspects for that crime. He is also somewhat still romantically linked to Krista, but has little use for her now that he is living the clean and sober life.
Renner’s Coughlin is the opposite of Affleck’s control McCray, and seems to simply be living day to day with no plans for tomorrow other than the next score. He is fresh from prison (a sentence he served for a murder committed on McCray’s behalf), and has no plans of going back. Unfortunately, Keesey could put him back behind bars so Coughlin wants to put her in the ground.
McCray doesn’t want the woman’s death on his hands so he decides to find out how much she knows and how much she is willing to talk to the F.B.I. This leads to an unexpected romance between the two characters – which is clearly doomed to fail.
The plot heats up as McCray collides with Coughlin over killing Keesey and the fact that McCray is ready to get out of Charlestown. Coughlin wants one more big score and McCray soon discovers he has no choice but to pull off the deadly heist.
Reminiscent of Heat, the final job ends in deadly shootout between McCray’s gang and the F.B.I. The sequence is packed with action, suspense and makes the film worth watching. It is also interesting that about halfway through the gun battle, you are not sure if you are pulling for the cops to take down the gang or the gang to get away. The film wraps up nicely with Affleck and company tying up most of the film’s plot points.
The Town is an excellent movie and one that could prove to be a masterpiece for Affleck as a director in years to come. When I first watched Gone Baby Gone, I had doubts that I would enjoy the film given I was not a big fan of Affleck. The film changed my mind about him, and The Town has established him as filmmaker who seems to be at the top of his game.
As a filmmaker, Affleck has placed his two big screen directorial efforts in a setting he knows and worked with actors who could bring the characters to life on the screen. The Town is an acting powerhouse with everyone on top of their game – even minor characters (Pete Postlethwaite doesn’t have much screen time, but leaves a very evil impression as he clips his roses).
The film has a few problems (McCray’s slip back into drugs and alcohol for one scene seemed a waste of time), but nothing that kills the pace, tension or entertainment.
If you are a fan of the crime genre or heist films, The Town is well-worth checking out thanks to its cast of actors, its tight screenplay, and explosive action sequences. Affleck proves he knows how to handle the director’s chair as well as deliver a commanding performance on screen.
This new Ultimate Edition is well-worth the upgrade if you already love the film and the better version to pick up if you just want to add the film to your collection.
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