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Blu-ray Review: The Town – Ultimate Collector’s Edition

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Ben Affleck, director, co-writer, and star of The Town, says the new Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray version of the film is the cut he wanted to make. In a printed message from Affleck enclosed in the set, he talks about sacrifices that had to be made when editing the theatrical version. Affleck wasn’t satisfied with the first extended cut, previously released on Blu-ray. He is very passionate about this new alternate extended cut, considering it to be superior to the original. He does stress that the new version won’t change the minds of anyone who didn’t like the movie in the first place, but believes it’s something fans of the film should enjoy. The cut exclusive to the Ultimate Collector’s Edition includes many of the same additional scenes as the previous version, but offers a never before seen alternate ending. While the previous extended cut offered interesting insight into the characters, it also brought out some of the film’s weaknesses. All three cuts of the film are included in the new box set.

The Town stars Affleck as Doug MacRay, a professional thief who pulls off heists with his best friend James “Jem” Loughlin (Jeremy Renner) and their group of low-life friends. MacRay comes from a troubled background. His mom took off when he was six and his dad (Chris Cooper) is serving multiple life sentences for murdering two armored car guards. After being taken in by Jem’s family, he ends up on the same path as his dad. While Jem seems all too happy to make a living by robbing banks, MacRay is conflicted. At one time he could have been a professional hockey player and gotten out of Charlestown. But after his hockey dreams fell apart, he found himself working for the same low-level organized crime boss, Fergus Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), his father had worked for.

Charlestown, Massachusetts, is a one square mile section of Boston that happens to be populated by a high number of bank robbers. In an effort to create a realistic feel, Affleck takes inspiration from real life heists that took place in the area. The Skeletor masks worn by the band of bank robbers in the opening scene were taken right out of real FBI files, according to Affleck. This opening scene sets up the uneasy relationship MacRay has with Jem and with his life as a professional bank robber. While MacRay comforts a nervous female employee as she opens the vault, the hot-headed Jem bashes the head of the bank manager with the butt of his rifle. He then decides they need to take the female employee as a hostage while fleeing the bank. While they ultimately let the hostage go, they are nervous she will figure out who they are. Fortunately for them, she was blind-folded and never saw them without their masks.

The hostage turns out to be Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), the bank’s assistant manager. MacRay follows her in an effort to see if she knows anything about them, soon developing a romantic interest in her. Not knowing who he really is, she agrees to go out with him. The film centers on MacRay’s duplicity both to Clare and Jem. With Claire he finds some of the life he has been seeking. She represents a quiet normalcy he has never experienced. He longs to leave Charlestown behind, taking Claire with him. His loyalty and his ties to Fergus Colm prevent him from doing so. Jem does not know or want anything other than the life he has. MacRay goes along with Jem thinking each heist will be his last. In the meantime Claire is constantly questioned by FBI agent Adam Frawley (John Hamm) who is determined to pin MacRay for his crimes.

What’s best about The Town is the gritty realism Affleck achieves. The actors are so immersed in their roles it seems as though they have spent their lives in Charlestown. In truth, some of them have. Affleck has peppered the supporting cast with Boston and Charlestown natives. Even those not from the area blend in quite well. Renner in particular is very convincing as the loose cannon who could jeopardize everything. The character is actually a bit of a cliché. Affleck compares the character to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, but there are countless hotheads like Jem throughout crime movie history.

Jem is the type of guy most of us wouldn’t want to know. He seems as though he could snap at any minute and would take no greater pleasure than bashing in the face of someone who crosses him. Even when attempting charm, Jem’s true nature bubbles just under the surface. Despite the predictability of the character, Renner manages to inject his performance with a brutal honesty. Unlike MacRay, Jem is not conflicted about his life. He knows his place in life, and he unflinchingly accepts it. In a scene where MacRay tells Jem he wants out of the life, it is Jem who feels betrayed. Renner allows a genuine hurt to seep through the bravado.

The extended cut fleshes out MacRay’s own perception of the consequences of his actions. He had believed he and his friends committed their crimes without really hurting anyone. They just wanted the money. His relationship with Claire shows him another side of life. It shows him the side that is affected by the crimes perpetrated on them. The cut also explores the idea of karma. Doug tells Claire that bad people do bad things and bad things happen to them. He’s not going to cry over it. He doesn’t seem aware at the time of what karma may have in store for him.

The downside of the extended cut is the more meandering pace slows the film down quite a bit, sometimes losing focus. The alternate ending will be apparent to those who have already seen either previous cut. I found myself somewhat dissatisfied with the original as well as the alternate ending, for different reasons. Without spoiling anything, the alternate ending seems to come out of nowhere. Affleck admits in the special features that he would have built up to it better, but he knew all along it would be cut. If I had to choose, I would probably go with the theatrical ending as my preferred version. There is an element in both endings that doesn’t ring true to me. Overall, I find The Town to be a very good, though not quite great, movie. The performances and exciting heist sequences make it worth repeated viewings.

The Blu-ray is presented in a 1080p MPEG-4 transfer. The picture quality is excellent for all versions contained in the set. The grim look of the town was perfectly captured in the original cinematography, and the Blu-ray offers that vision in vivid detail. The clarity and definition of the picture heightens the stark reality of the film. Though the palette is heavy on dark blues and browns, the colors are richly produced. The overhead shots of the city stand out, with vehicles and people visibly sharp even at a distance. The extended footage on both longer cuts blends right in, matching the visual quality of the theatrical cut. The sound is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This film features a lot of action and gunfire, coupled with quieter conversation scenes. All come across quite well. The dialogue is clear even in the most chaotic of action scenes. The surrounds effectively create the ambience of crowded bars, Fenway Park, and city streets. The climatic shoot-out really places the viewer at the center of the fury, with bullets and explosions coming from all directions. Overall, the presentation is excellent.

This box set offers the complete package for fans of The Town. It contains all three versions of the film, along with a DVD copy and UltraViolet digital version of the new extended cut. The box set comes with some memorabilia including a 48 page photo book, the aforementioned letter from Affleck, poster-sized map of Charlestown, film prop reproductions, a rub-on tattoo replica of the one worn by Jem, a Vericom employee file like the one obtained by the FBI in the film, four mug shot cards, and a 15 page FBI report.

The special features included on the discs are not extensive, but they are interesting. One is a 30 minute making of “Director’s Journey” where Affleck discusses acting in and directing the film. The other main feature is “Ben’s Boston Focus Points.” This is six featurettes about different locations and aspects to the film. These feature interviews with Renner, Hamm, Hall, Blakely Lively, and other cast and crew on the making of the movie. These featurettes can either be watched on their own, or via an icon that pops up during the original version of the film. All three versions of the film feature commentary from Affleck. They are all basically the same track, extended to accommodate the additional material found in the longer cuts.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.
  • mplo

    Hi, Sherry! Thank you for your input. I definitely agree with you about Jeremy Renner’s performance, and about Doug’s unfortunate upbringing. I feel, however, that that both the ending in the theatrical version, where Doug eludes the law with Claire’s help, as well as the Doug-Claire romance itself, helped ruin the movie for me.

    I don’t have trouble with dissenting opinions either. Thank you for accepting my differences in my opinions. I see what you’re saying, also.

  • mplo – Wow – I think your comments are longer than my review! I see what you are saying. I wasn’t sympathetic to Doug or Clare – except maybe Doug’s unfortunate upbringing. However, I enjoyed the film for what it was. I thought the performances were good. Jem was completely unsympathetic but I enjoyed Jeremy Renner’s performance. The film certainly wasn’t perfect but I enjoyed the story – though, as I stated in my review, the ending bothered me a little. I, for one, have no trouble with dissenting opinions. Don’t let one person bother you too much.

  • mplo

    Oh, btw, Peter…sorry that I pissed you off, but I had to speak MY mind as well.


  • mplo

    I also might add that The Town also normalizes the Stockholm Syndrome and its inverse, the Lima Syndrome. One doesn’t have to be in any of the helping professions (i. e. psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc.) to realize that, while a person who’s taken hostage and falls victim to the Stockholm Syndrome (i. e. falling in love with her captor) or the Lima Syndrome (i. e. accepting the overtures of her captor, who falls in love with her), presumably has a better chance of survival in a hostage situation, the victim, in either case, is turned into a person who is at her captor’s beck and call, is manipulated and controlled by him, and is essentially brainwashed into believing that her captor cares enough about her not to kill her, and that he’ll always treat her kindly and not abuse her. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, especially because, all too often, the victim is isolated from her friends and loved ones, and begins to blame law officials and other authorities for her troubles and turn against them rather than her captor who committed this criminal act against her in the first place.

    That being said, I’d say that common sense is required, in order to at least minimize the possibility of having something like that happen to him or her; Just because one meets a charming guy or gal, doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily out for any good, particularly if one is in an area that’s known to be tough, with a violent history to it. Anybody who meets someone that they’ve never seen before, no matter where they are, or how charming they may be, should be much more careful, and not be so quick to accept dates with someone or get into things with people they don’t know that well.

    Claire was a woman who used no common sense what. so. ever, and she ended up having a breakdown when it finally backfired on her. Hey…if I’d known her in real life, I’d tell her..”Hey..don’t you understand that if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned? Think about that!”

    Supposed the bank manager hadn’t been as angelic-looking as Claire, or had been someone with a learning/developmental disability such as autism, Aspergers, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, or a seizure disorder? Do you honestly believe that Doug and his men would’ve even acted the least bit charming and sympathetic towards her? I don’t think so. Doug would’ve allowed Jem to do whatever he wanted with her, and she probably would’ve been gang-raped or “offed” by Doug and his posse of armed criminals. Don’t kid yourselves, guys!

    Doug, contrary to how he came across to Claire, wasn’t a nice guy, even to her. He was playing her, and anybody who thinks that Doug and his men wouldn’t have killed her if she’d resisted and refused to comply with them is just kidding themselves.

    I admittedly liked the beginning of The Town, with the aerial and the on-the-ground shots of Boston’s Charlestown sections, as well as the opening bank heist, but, for me, The Town went from being okay to being just plain awful…in a matter of minutes.

  • mplo

    Sorry, peter, but I disagree with you.

    This is something that still continues to dog me, even though I’ve written about it so many times. Why, oh why do so many people fall for such a hyped-up, cheap, overrated, trashy movie such as The Town, and, more to the point, refuse to accept dissenting opinions on it? It beats me…I don’t know!

    I admit to one thing, however: The Town left me rooting for the cops and the FBI, especially Agt. Adam Frawley and wanting them to catch Doug MacRay and his men and send them to jail for their crimes, and to have Claire either criminally prosecuted herself for being an accessory to Doug’s crimes and for tipping him Doug off with a “sunny days” code and enabling him to elude the law, or at least put on some sort of probation for her bullshit. Sure, I sympathized with Claire at first, because she was the victim of an armed bank robbery, which wasn’t her fault, but I completely lost my sympathy for her when she not only got involved, wholesale, in a romance with Doug, but refused to sever all contacts with him even after she learned through Agt. Frawley who Doug MacRay really was, and what he was up to.. Unlike most people, who are sympathetic with Ben Affleck’s character in that film, and with Claire, I am not.

    Why should I be sympathetic to either Doug or Claire? The idea that Doug MacRay wanted to change and redeem himself through Claire is utter bullshit, especially after he engaged in an act of vigilantism by taking the law into his own hands, going back to Charlestown, and gunning down Rusty and Fergie just because they threatened Doug’s ladygirl Claire with physical harm. Come on now! Doug MacRay’s still a criminal and he was not the decent guy he came across as when he and Claire met “by chance” in a C-Town laundromat.

    Doug MacRay, like his friends and partners in crime, are not only skilled, disciplined and ruthless in their quest for quick money through parasitic behaviors such as armed robbery, and who’d unquestionably kill or seriously injure people enough to put them in the hospital if they’re considered obstacles to what they want, but Doug knows how to come across as a nice guy, when he’s really not. He may not be crazy like his best friend and righthand man, Jem, but he’s a sociopath and a person of unprovoked violence just the same. The fact that he came across as such a nice, charming guy and deceived Claire by pretending to be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, when he’s really not, is more than disgusting…it’s part of his criminal behavior. As for Claire, the fact that she took Doug’s bait and rose to it is pathetic indeed.

    If Doug had really wanted to change, imo, he would’ve turned himself and his guys in, come forward, negociated with the Feds for some protection for him and Claire, and stopped robbing banks once and for all. Doug left for Florida without Claire for two reasons:

    A) Doug macRay was an armed felon and wanted fugitive who’d been on the lam from the law for quite awhile, plus he’d just killed Fergie and Rusty.

    B) Doug had gotten what he really wanted out of Claire all along; a promise from her not to turn him in, which he got.

    How can so many people be so naive or willfully stupid as to miss that?

    Also, if Doug wanted to redeem himself, he would’ve come forward, served his time, and
    after a prison term, found honest ways to raise the funding for the renovation for the C-Town hockey rink himself, instead of using Claire Keesey as a go-between. What people don’t realize is that Doug wasn’t a nice guy…even to Claire, even though most people firmly believe that. The fact that he deceived her, seduced her and made a total fool out of her was vicious. The fact that Claire acted like a poor, confused, dumb-assed adolescent and allowed herself to be manipulated, made a fool out of and taken advantage of by Doug is pitiful, but she doesn’t deserve pity, due to the fact that she helped the very guy who turned her life upside down and caused her a ton of grief in the first place escape the law.

    Now that I think of it, I wouldn’t cared one iota if Doug and Claire had either ended up in jail, or been shot and thrown into the Charles or the Mystic River. An awful thing for me to say, but that’s how disgusted I am with this kind of thing.

    As for Kristina, well, I don’t like her sordid lifestyle or behavior (drug and alcohol addiction, sleeping around with too many men, and the fact that she was in the business herself by helping to book hotel rooms and get costumes for Doug and his men, and being a drug mule for Fergie and Rusty), but i’ll say this: I feel kind of sorry for Krista, in a way, because she had far fewer choices than Claire; she’d grown up with Doug and Jem, who, like many other men, abused and exploited her for their own ends. Krista’s daughter, Shyne, still an infant, caught in the middle of all this shit, was innocent, and I felt sorry for her, too.

    I’m so sick of people saying that what the white collar criminals (not defending them, btw) are worse than guys like Doug MacRay and his gang, because it’s unrelated, and not true.

    Neither the book Prince of Thieves, on which The Town was based, or the movie, make any effort to get at causes of bank robbery and other crimes, and the circumstances under which Doug and his men had grown up under. Moreover, the movie asks the audience to sympathize with Doug MacRay and his men, as well as Claire, who acted stupidly enough to allow Doug to take advantage of her, and who became an accessory to his crimes, while considering law enforcement officials assigned to bring criminals like MacRay and company to their knees and have them locked up in penetentiaries once and for all.

    Dez was a smart (he was college-educated and had a regular job) but stupid guy; he was pretty much just along for the ride, and did what he was told to do by the gang, and yet, at the same time, he seemed to be pretty much their victim, as well, if one gets the drift. Dez allowed himself to be taken for a ride, also.

    At least the book fleshes out the characters and spends more time on Dez and Krista, and doesn’t focus on the viewpoint of Doug and Jem so much, plus the book takes a far less sympathetic outlook towards Doug and his men.

    Sorry, folks, but I can’t bring myself to like this film, except for the very beginning.

  • peter

    im sorry for going on, but few things tick me off but people like this fool. the vast majority of the accents were on point and hardcore each in their own way. you said the movie had potential to be good, idk what you would have done to change it. the scenes were bloody and gory and violent? wtf. ummmm its a modern heist movie. the whole crew is from the streets not the suburbs, and 3 of them have been in prison. jem killed a dude and doug was violent just playing hockey. then theres the subplot of drugs, coke and oxy in the movie, and dust in the book if you read it. so you would have no guns, blood, gore, drugs, bitches, more guns and absolutely NO unrealistic scenes in a heist movie. genius. did you really just type out “post 9/11 surveillance.” can we meet somewhere so i can put you out of your misery? kind of like how agent frawley wants to personally asphyxiate the half wit guard gem shot in the north end if he could. thats what i would do. haha, oh just kidding! no im not

    • mplo

      Hey peter! You tick me off, too, buster. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!

  • peter

    sherrys right, mplo is about as sharp as a meat ball. but even more so, your comments…what? who do you think you are? A-F, and THEN 1-3. Let me guess you have a SICK man cave in your parents basement, with a walmart flat screen and play a lot of xbox. Every single comment is idiotic. Idk how old you are or where you’re from, but first of all the town is a great movie. sure the north end scene is a little crazy but thats why its fucking awesome you fat slob. do you really think a single soul would read your comments and change their behavior based on them? christ our society is shot

    • mplo

      Hey peter! Speak for yourself!

  • mplo

    Hi, Sherry. You’re welcome.

    I didn’t think about putting spoilers’ alert warnings on my post, because it didn’t come to my mind. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Sherry

    Thanks for your comments mplo – you maybe should have put a Spoiler Alert warning on your post – you gave away both endings!

  • mplo

    The Town had the potential for being a really good, or even one of the greats regarding movies, but it fell woefully short of that potential for the following reasons:

    A) A poor to mediocre cast, at best. Jeremy Renner, imho, was the only really convincing actor regarding his role as Doug MacRay’s crazy, psychotic right-hand man, “Jem”.

    B) The Boston accents, particularly on the part of Ben Affleck, were rather forced and overdone.

    C) The car crashes/chases and shoot-out scenes in the North End and Fenway Park were totally unrealistic, were too graphic, and had unnecessary violence and gore in them. Plus, nobody could’ve realistically survived those crashes/chases. There would’ve been broken and bloodied bodies all over the place!

    D) The fact that Doug got away unscathed, or got away..period, is realistically impossible, especially during this post 9/11 era, with so much sophisticated technical surveillance.

    E) The Doug-Claire romance, which seemed rather immature, like two young teens just starting out on their first romance, took up much too much of the film, and the chemistry between Affleck and Hall was paltry, at best.

    F) The story itself was unrealistic, and the stereotypes abound.
    1) The angelic-looking, wholesome good-girl Claire, the bank manager, who does volunteer work and takes care of a community garden who was also a fair damsel in distress was also prominent.

    2) Is every Bostonian a rabid, slobbering Red Sox Fan? Come on, now.

    3) Is everybody in Charlestown involved in the bank-robbing business in some way or other? Again…come on.!

    Although I’ve never, ever seen The Town with the extended footage and the alternate ending, it sounds as if the alternate ending, where Doug MacRay finally gets his comeuppance (being found and gunned down by one of the Dominican men who he and Jem beat up and permanently injured in their C-Town project apartment for throwing bottles at Claire ultimately shot and killed Doug MacRay) makes a great deal more sense, and, to me, sounds like a more concise, better ending to the film.