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Blu-ray Review: The Town

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The Town, the latest film from writer/director/actor Ben Affleck, is an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a man who has grown up in Charlestown, a blue collar area of Boston which has been labeled “the bank robbery capital of America.” MacRay has led a series of well-executed bank robberies with his crew, which includes James (Jeremy Renner).

During the latest heist, an alarm gets tripped and, as insurance, James takes with them bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall). The crew gets away, but James and Doug decide to keep an eye on Claire to make sure she doesn’t know anything. Along the way Doug and Claire start a relationship, which angers James, since she may be able to identify them and turn them in.

To complicate things, FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) has seen footage from the bank. Recognizing the style of the robbers, he closes in on MacRay and his crew. All Doug wants to do is get out of Charlestown and retire from his criminal lifestyle with Claire if possible.

Affleck is great as the leader of his crew: the guy who just wants to get out and lead a normal life. Actors can go from being on top to falling to the bottom with one or two bad films; however some can recover from these experiences, and Affleck seems to among them. I’ve been a fan of his from Mallrats, Shakespeare in Love, Armageddon and more. It’s good to see him return to his strengths, perhaps a little wiser from his experiences.  

Renner is excellent as Doug’s sidekick, and his playing a hothead in The Town gives a glimpse into what his performance might be as hothead Hawkeye in 2012’s The Avengers. Hamm’s portrayal of an FBI agent is believable and smartly played, while Hall as the love interest really works.

The Town Blu-ray has caused a bit of controversy amongst the DVD community. Instead of using the seamless branching feature for the alternate cuts, Warner Brothers decided to put both the theatrical and extended versions on one disc.

Video:

The Town is presented in 1080p widescreen; the movie looks excellent. The various blues including the police uniforms and the reds and oranges of the explosions throughout the film are vibrant. The black levels are crisp and defined and never wash the actors out.

Audio:
The film’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is very good; it never overpowers the dialogue, nor interferes with it. You can understand each actor’s lines, and can distinguish each of them.

While the theatrical version runs 125 minutes, the extended version runs 153. The extended version fleshes out the Doug/Claire relationship and gives Victor Garber an additional scene, but there are also a few extended scenes, which do slow down the film. But it’s worth seeing the extended version (at least once) to note the differences.

Each version has its own commentary with Ben Affleck; the actor/director discusses all aspects of the film. Past commentaries with Affleck have been very jokey, but this time he’s more serious and covers the roles of actor, director, and writer quite well. He discusses shooting techniques, and doesn’t heap on the praise (he actually points out a few spots where mistakes were made or they missed an opportunity) like in some commentaries. The extended cut commentary is an extension of Affleck’s theatrical cut but in the extended cut he discusses test screenings and the changes that resulted from the screenings, as well as the different cuts of The Town that materialized over the natural course of shooting.

“Ben’s Boston” includes six behind-the-scenes featurettes running just over 30 minutes. These can be viewed individually or with the theatrical cut with the disc’s in-movie experience selected. It’s not a full length picture-in-picture commentary which is becoming standard with Warner Brothers Blu-rays, but it’s a good substitute. The featurettes include “Pulling Off the Perfect Heist,” “The Town,” “Nuns with Guns: Filming in the North End,” “The Real People of the Town,” “Ben Affleck: Director & Actor” and “The Cathedral of Boston.” The featurettes provide some insight not given in the commentary and give some fun behind-the-scenes footage as well.

The last extra is an extended cut scene indicator. To activate this you highlight this option in the menu and a small icon will appear on your screen to designate scenes that didn’t appear in the theatrical version of the film. This is a great feature and should be included on any cut, be it ultimate, director’s, or extended DVD release from now on.

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