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The Town - Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

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The Town - Blu-ray Review

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3 Stars

Offering nothing really new or wholly fresh to the crime-saga genre, Ben Affleck, in his directorial follow-up to the grossly involving Gone Baby Gone, presents a traditional tale of Irish-American woe amongst the streets of Boston with The Town.  It’s an innocent enough turn from the highs of his previous work, just a bit disappointing.  Still, The Town is a bit too traditional in its noirish storytelling and, while it is visually stylized, it doesn’t retain much of the praised indie “vibe” its predecessor had.  There is a decisive split fracturing this narrative into two parts: (1) the beginning which absolutely works in earnest at creating a sense of gritty realism and (2) the plodding finale which, to my sensibilities, outstretches the limits of what worked so well in the film’s beginning and, ultimately, falls flat.

As far as narrative goes, The Town is essentially Boston’s version of Di Palma’s Carlito’s Way.  You know, the mantra of ‘one more job and I’m out’ sorta thing.  To be exact, Affleck’s movie is set against the gritty backdrop of Charlestown, a deprived community inside of Boston, known for the lineage of criminal activity it breeds.  Enter Doug MacRay (Affleck) and his (of course) hotheaded partner Jem (Jeremy Renner).  They are stereotypical “brothers” in crime; they like to play dress-up and knock over banks and armored trucks.  Yet, Jem’s temper threatens to tear the seams of their threaded relationship at every turn.  Instead of pulling in a link between poverty and crime for the dynamic duo, the audience gets a fist-pump from a muscled and very criminal crew in the film’s adrenalinized bank-heist opening.  Jem, a stock character if ever there was one, brutally beats a bank teller and takes Claire (Rebecca Hall) as hostage; a first for the group.  Remember what I said about his temper…

Once Claire is released (she’s from “the block” after all) by the gang, everyone’s suspicions are amplified: Jem thinks she’ll talk and rat the boys out; Doug says he’ll “take care” of her only to fall in love with her; Claire refuses to talk to FBI Special Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm who is not even close to the genius of Don Draper in Mad Men with this “hammy” performance) because of her history in Charlestown, and the audience, sensing a familiarity in storyline, scope and sequence, becomes suspicious of Jem’s menacing presence, Doug’s secret from Claire, and the trappings of a script that, unfortunately, isn’t as smart as it really, really wants to be.  It’s the product of too much television, folks…way too much; a fact referenced by Doug in conversation, too.

Affleck, in the role of “honorable” crook, does score some sympathy points with the audience.  Still lagging a bit in the acting department behind the talent of his brother, Affleck’s taste for authenticity in locale – as a director - is something to be celebrated.  And to the letter, this film captures that level of gritty verisimilitude.  While The Town is steeped in detailed realism, including personal scenes - very much stripped of emotion and totally engrossing - involving Doug’s AA realities, the film can’t be supported by Affleck’s acting alone.  Therein, the film suffers its average fate at the hands of a strangling script.

Paper thin and grossly predictable, Renner’s characterization of Jem is see-thru at best and never delivers any amount of real surprise or danger toward the Romeo-and-Juliette situation developing between Doug and Claire.  Close your eyes and you STILL can see Jem’s deathwish approaching with the steady THUD-THUD-THUD of its predictable and clomping march.  Even Pete Postlethwaithe’s delivery of fresh roses and nightmarish ultimatums can’t shake the been-there, done-that vibe of The Town.

Also relatively scathed by the largely undistinguished script (courtesy of Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard, and Affleck) is Hamm in the role of Special Agent.  Again, Hamm is a fine actor, but – when it matters the most - he can’t seem to land some pretty basic and stereotypical cops-and-robbers lines because he’s probably not use to the awfully gamey dialogue (as, thankfully, Mad Men is free of such things) and the character fails to impress (almost becoming laughable in a few scenes) because of the simplistic styling Hamm is uncomfortable with…although we can tell he is “stressed” by his efforts to capture the masked bank robbers by a deepening 5 o’clock shadow…

Sure, Chris Cooper might show up to hand over an excellent performance as Doug’s father, but the brevity of Doug’s backstory (which, I’m sorry to say, comes across as an edited afterthought with flashbacks) isn’t enough to give Affleck’s film the needed amount of staying power as it disjointedly attempts to sew together blunt-force action with moments of intimate realism.  It’s a film – complete with a talented cast - that deserves to be a lot better than, I suppose, it actually is.

I wasn’t expecting the moon with The Town, but having recently revisited Gone Baby Gone, I am a little disappointed by Affleck’s formulaic follow-up.  As a companion piece, I suppose it works, as there are some similarities.  Alone?  Not as well.  Sure, this is better than we thought Affleck was headed in Hollywood, but it needs a bit more meat.  Ultimately, The Town, while it does have its moments of involving specificity, suffers a bit too much from its bland inhabitants: a pantheon of overused stock characters and an all-too familiar storyline.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Town - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.
Director
: Ben Affleck
Writer
: Ben Affleck; Peter Craig
Cast: Ben Affleck; Jeremy Renner; Rebecca Hall; Jon Hamm
Genre
: Crime | Drama
Tagline:
Welcome to the bank robbery capital of America.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Were you able to see anything at all through the blindfold?"
Official Site:
thetownmovie.warnerbros.com
Release Date: September 17, 2010
Collector's Edition Blu-ray Release Date:
March 6, 2010.

Synopsis: There are over 300 bank robberies in Boston every year. And a one-square-mile neighborhood in Boston, called Charlestown, has produced more bank and armored car robbers than anywhere in the U.S.
One of them is Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), but he is not cut from the same cloth as his fellow thieves. Unlike them, Doug had a chance at success, a chance to escape following in his father's criminal footsteps. Instead he became the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers who pride themselves on taking what they want and getting out clean. The only family Doug has are his partners in crime, especially Jem (Jeremy Renner), who, despite his dangerous, hair-trigger temper, is the closest thing Doug ever had to a brother.

However, everything changed on the gang's last job when Jem briefly took a hostage: bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). When they discover she lives in Charlestown, Jem gets nervous and wants to check out what she might have seen. Knowing what Jem is capable of, Doug takes charge. He seeks out Claire, who has no idea that their encounter is not by chance or that this charming stranger is one of the men who terrorized her only days before.

As his relationship with Claire deepens into a passionate romance, Doug wants out of this life and the town. But with the Feds, led by Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm), closing in and Jem questioning his loyalty, Doug realizes that getting out will not be easy and, worse, may put Claire in the line of fire. Any choices he once had have boiled down to one: betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Town - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

The Town Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray + DVD + UV Digital Copy

Available on Blu-ray - The Town Ultimate Collector's Edition is available on blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack with UltraViolet Digital Copy on March 6, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Turkish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (2 BDs, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy; BD-Live

It feels a bit odd that The Town was selected for Warner's coveted Ultimate Collector's Edition treatment as it seems to be a random anointing, but nonetheless, if you like collectibles, this one's done up royally. One must find a way to overlook the shameless air of double-dipping however to fully enjoy this set. The practice is something that's here to stay, so we have to just get used to it.

The experience of The Town Ultimate Collector's Edition begins when we first open the sleekly produced over-sized boxed set. The box, printed in a semi-metallic ink with a matte finish, is partially sheathed in a cardboard promotional wrapper that details and highlights the set's contents. Upon exploring the numerous items buried within the box we see a 48-page behind-the-scenes Photo book that touches on the film's backstory, its plot, director, and cast. Also, as expected, it also includes a plentitude of movie stills and behind-the-scenes shots from the production. A tribute to the late Pete Postalthwaite, who sadly passed in 2011, rounds out the photo book's ample pages.

The second item that catches our eye is the tiny velcro-latched box made to look like an Interdepartmental envelope marked "confidential." Inside is a bunch of collector materials cleverly disguised as employee files and criminal dossiers. Besides a set of Boston Police Department mug shots, a sheet of rub-on tattoos (the one seen on Jem's neck), and a fold-out map of Charlestown that also highlights the various robberies that take place in the film, is a personal letter from Ben Affleck in which he explains some of the changes he made to the film (nearly 30 minutes added), including a new surprise ending that is unique to this Ultimate Collector's Edition.

A three-disc Digipak with two BDs (One with theatrical version and extended cut, the other with extended cut and alternate ending) and a DVD (includes extended cut with alternate ending) top off this jam-packed set that despite the stench of a double-dip, lives up to the Ultimate Collector's Edition hype.

2010's hi-def transfer of The Town was plagued by problems likely stemming from the fact that both the 125-minute theatrical cut and the 153-minute extended version of the film were crammed onto a single 50Gb disc. The resulting pixelization and occasional faint color bars are gone now that both cuts of the film are included on separate discs and given ample 25Mbps room to breathe. The occasional wall-crawl, color shift, and the almost unnoticeable color softness notwithstanding, this transfer is spectacular no matter which which version you watch. Blacks are deep, colors vibrant, and Affleck's grittily stylish grain remains intact. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works the room like an angry beast with deep bass, jolting gun shots, and plenty of rear speaker action that especially comes to life as echoes bounce about during the Fenway Park scenes.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Theatrical Cut Audio Commentary with Ben Affleck
  • Extended Cut Audio Commentary with Ben Affleck

Special Features:

For a release of this magnitude, the number and quality of supplementals seems a bit lacking. With the exception of the above mentioned extended commentary and a new ending, we're treated to only one new piece: an Affleck-narrated documentary. The six featurettes included in Ben's Boston have been ported over from the previous blu-ray release. The emphasis is definitely on the "Collector's" part of the title as bits, trinkets, and chachkies make up the greater part of this Ultimate Collector's Edition set.

  • Extended Cut with Alternate Ending
  • Extended Cut with Alternate Ending
  • Documentary - The Town: A Director's Journey (30:00)
  • Ben's Boston: Six Focus Points (31:00)
    • 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
    • The Cathedral of Boston
  • Extended Cut Scene Indicator - An icon pops up on the screen which indicates that scenes that are unique to the extended version of the film. Brilliant!
  • Theatrical Trailer

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