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Charlestown is one square mile area community in Boston MA that produces the most bank robbers per capita than any place in the world. Stepping in the directors’ seat to tell the story of those who rob and the people of this neighborhood is one of Boston’s own, Ben Affleck (State of Play, He’s Just Not That Into You). Using the novel “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan and the film ‘Heat’ as his influences, Affleck is stepping up his game as an actor, writer and director.
Doug is cool, calm, collective and about to pull off a bank robbery with 3 of his closest friends, Jem, Gloansy and Desmond. Something’s different this time. They take the bank manager hostage when they leave. Doug, being the brains, reassures the young woman, Claire, she will be okay. During their escape they drop of Claire, unharmed, and head home to Charlestown. After all is said and done the crew blows of steam partying and ‘cleaning’ the money while FBI agent Adam Frawley investigates the robbery. While ‘watching’ Claire, Doug becomes enamored with her and begins a relationship that will test his ties to his friends, his ‘job’ and his past.
Taking part in a movie in more than one capacity is tough for anyone let alone three. Affleck does a phenomenal job as an actor, director and writer with the help of fellow scribe Aaron Stockard (Gone Baby Gone) and new writer Peter Craig. The three collaborated to bring the true nature of this little neighborhood to light. Not just the bad elements, the good people who have lived there for generations. Robbing may have become a trade but it is still the people that make Charlestown what it is an unforgettable place.
Making us feel the realness of Charlestown were not just Hollywood types but those that grew up right in the middle of it. Boston raised Affleck played the lead Doug MacRay alongside the love interest Claire played by Rebecca Hall (Dorian Gray, Frost/Nixon). The head strong, ‘not going back to jail’ friend, Jem played by Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker, Take), wheelman, Gloansy, is portrayed by Bostonian Slaine (Gone Baby Gone) and techie, Owen, played by Charlestown native Owen Burke, are the crew Doug hangs and works with. Other prominent actors include Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) as Jem’s drugged out sister and Doug’s one time girlfriend Krista. Playing the heavy, Fergie is the journeyman actor Pete Postlethwaite (Inception, Clash of the Titans) and countering as FBI agent Frawley is John Hamm (Mad Men).
Burke is not the only Charlestown native to be lit up on the silver screen. Affleck held casting for several smaller roles to be portrayed by those who live in this tight nit group of individuals and families. Dennis McLaughlin caught Affleck’s eye with his broodiness that he was cast as Fergies’ muscle, as was Daniel Woods and his charm placed himself in the uniform of a Boston PD officer. This is just a sample of those who the production team, especially Affleck wanted to involve; those that have lived and still live in what many believe a birthplace for bank robbers.
From the first shot on film to the end I do commend the Special Effects and Stunt teams. The amount of skill and artistry these teams put into each chase, each gun battle is above par. Besides how many effects people have been able to say the shot the heck out of Fenway Park?
Being able to step into different shoes during the process became ever so smooth a transition for Affleck as told by the many actors and production crew during the making process. It is all available for you to view in the Blu-Ray extras.
The Blu-Ray is packed with the DVD/Digital Copy disc. This will be extremely helpful if you want to watch the film on your media player when you are in Boston and want to trace the steps of the action.
Presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound in English, French and subtitles for both as well as Spanish give you a good choice for viewing either the theatrical or extended cut versions of the film.
Having not seen the theatrical version I chose to watch the extended. There was some good and bad to that choice. It is an excellent film but having not seen the film it was a little hectic to keep looking up in the left corner to see the ‘camera’ icon to let you know you were seeing an extended cut. This also led to some drastic differences of the two films, not to mention inconsistencies.
The extended cut offered a more in depth look into the relationship between Doug and Claire. The romance of this action movie needed to be balanced out, hence the cuts in the first place. As noted it provided some odd inconsistencies. In one extended scene Claire asks Doug about his parents, to which 15 minutes after this in the theatrical version part she asks him again as if we would have forgotten she just asked him that.
Overall though the extended cut was a bit long and drawn out and not clear in direction. It would have faired better if someone from continuity sat with Affleck and the editor and pointed out holes or just added them as deleted scenes in the features section. As I go back to watch this film it will be the theatrical version only.
The Blu-Ray offers several options and features to view:
Theatrical and Extended Cut versions with commentary by Ben Affleck- Perhaps I should go back and watch it with the commentary and see if Affleck can catch all the hiccups.
Filming in his hometown Segments include-
‘The Cathedral of Boston’ which looks into all the production company had to do in order to film at the famed Fenway Ballpark.
‘Nun’s with Guns’ features a scene break down of filming in the north end near which the real bank robbery the scene is depicting happened.
‘Pulling of the Perfect Heist’ takes us behind another real bank robbery that took place in the same bank they used to film. With a little help of a local born retired FBI agent, the production team pulls of stunning visuals that some people who lived thru the event were taken aback by its accuracy.
‘The Town’ is Affleck’s thank you to the town many have given up on, Charlestown. The people and places are chronicled. The shoot was so real as to employ many who lived in the area either in front of or behind the camera.
With such a diverse group working together, you can not help but be pulled into its gritty drama. Well acted, written and portrayed on the screen.
The story itself delves into, do we make who we become or are we made into it. Is it the people and places around us that show us what we are or do we show everyone what we are? I believe it’s a little of both. When we are young we are surrounded by those who care for us, depending on how gives us the mental insight as to whether we are to continue in this life following the same or break out and go anew. It is one of life’s moral dilemmas. Light and darkness have their ideas of family and only you can make a conscious decision to break the mold or create on
e. Believe in yourself first and foremost, then and only then can you live a long, truly happy life.
Thank you to Alejandra Melendez for her input and quick eye and ear to details.
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