Plot: What’s it about?
Ben Affleck has been on the Hollywood spotlight for nearly years now. I think the first time I remember seeing him was a bit part in 1992’s School Ties and he had a larger role in the following year’s Dazed and Confused. But it was with writer/director Kevin Smith’s movies that really got him noticed. Granted Mallrats didn’t really set the world on fire but Affleck had a much larger role. It was with 1997’s Chasing Amy that really got him noticed and sometimes that’s all it takes. From there he literally went “Hollywood” with such big-budget movies like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor and of course his Oscar winning movie Good Will Hunting didn’t hurt either. Affleck fell off the radar for a few years, but has still managed to still say in the spotlight and with The Town marks Affleck’s directorial debut. The film takes place in Affleck’s hometown, Boston, and I couldn’t think of a better locale for a film like this. Yes, there have been movies about bank robbers before, but somehow this one feels pretty genuine.
We meet Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) and the rest of the crew as they’re robbing a bank. This isn’t their first bank and by the looks of it, it won’t be their last. In the midst of this latest escapade, they take the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) hostage. They get away with it, but Doug tails Claire (Hall) to make sure she doesn’t run to the FBI with any information. As it turns out, Doug and Claire start to see one another though she’s oblivious that Doug was one of the bank robbers. At the same time the FBI led by agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is hot on their tail, just waiting for them to make a mistake. As is the case with bank robbers, it would seem that there’s always another in the works. But will they get caught by the FBI and what of Doug and Claire’s relationship?
I was somewhat skeptical of The Town namely because it had Ben Affleck’s name all over it. I’ve grown to appreciate Affleck over the years and have loved some of his offbeat choices as an actor (namely Hollywoodland and State of Play) as of late. I’ll give credit where it’s due, though, as “The Town” was a two hour movie that felt like it was 45 minutes long. Translation: it gets its claws in you and doesn’t let go. Standing toe to toe with Affleck is Jeremy Renner who some might remember from The Hurt Locker and he’s in fine form once again here. The supporting cast delivers strong performances as well and as much a player in the film is the city of Boston itself. Affleck obviously knows his town and used it wisely in this film. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and despite the subject matter, it’s a gripping film that’s sure to please.
Video: How does it look?
With this new “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” we get no less than three versions of the film. The extended edition with the alternate ending does have its own disc while the other two cuts of the film share their own Blu-ray. In terms of video quality, there’s a difference (for the better) but to be quite honest, you’d have to watch both versions at the same time to really notice anything. Having said that I’ll somewhat re-iterate what I said with the previous movie-only Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer that looks immaculate. I’ve only been to Boston once in my life, but I did see some sights that looked familiar and obviously I’ve seen those same landmarks in other films as well. The overall look of the film is a bit muted, with flesh tones appearing on the washed out side. Detail is amazing though, just take a look at the freckles on Rebecca Hall’s face or the perpetual five o’clock shadow on both Affleck and Jon Hamm. Contrast is well balanced, black levels are spot on and all in all a very good transfer regardless of which version you watch.
Audio: How does it sound?
Again, like the video presentation, there’s a very robust track here and there’s really not much of an improvement. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack quite literally rocks on all three versions of the film. Again, I was reminded as to how Affleck has the tendency to mumble a bit, but his ramblings aren’t any fault of the mix. This is reference-quality audio, though. Car chases, gun shots, bullets fired and a few explosions thrown in for good measure. It’s a slam bang mix of LFE, surrounds and a strong front stage that’s nearly impossible to beat.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Now this is where this new Ultimate Collector’s Edition does differ from the previous Blu-ray. First off the cosmetic look of the package is different with a foil-like embossment featuring Ben Affleck set against the backdrop of Bahstan. It’s a three disc set sporting two Blu-ray discs and a DVD complete with a digital copy as well as a Blu-ray copy. It’s also about four times as wide as your typical Blu-ray, so make sure you’ve got some space on your shelf (or wherever you store your discs) because it will take up some space. Ok, let’s move onto the supplements…
As with the original Blu-ray, both the Theatrical Cut and the Extended Cut are present (these are on the second Blu-ray) but we get the Extended Cut with an alternate ending with commentary on that ending as well. There’s also a new 30 minute documentary entitled “The Town: A Director’s Journey” as director/actor Ben Affeck spews forth the truth in a way I wasn’t prepared for. He candidly tells us of the constant challenges and struggles that he and the crew faced while making this film and it’s this kind of honesty that makes Affleck all the more endearing. As previously mentioned, this new set does contain the Extended Cut of the film with an alternate ending and we’re also treated to Affleck’s comments on this ending as well. I won’t divulge what’s involved, but it’s a nice little extra that makes the set. In regards to the new video-based supplements, that’s it. But as you might expect, everything from the original Blu-ray has been ported over. Included is “Ben’s Boston” (similar to the extraction mode on “Inception” and the Focus Points) in which six featurettes can be played individually or as a whole. We get some tidbits about the locale and so forth. There’s also an Extended Cut indicator that lets you know when you’re viewing a scene not in the Theatrical Cut. Clever. The trailer is also included as are the commentaries on the other cuts of the film.
In regards to the physical extras, we’ve got some very interesting tangible supplements. The main draw is the 50 page photo book with shots from the shoot and the film. Director/Actor Ben Affleck has written a letter to the viewer, there’s a map of Charlestown along with some written notes about the scenes from the film and a folder complete with mug shots, an FBI report, some “Irish” tattoos and the like. If you’re a fan of The Town then this is certainly what you’ve been waiting for. But in regards to actual supplemental materials, all you’re really getting is an alternate ending with commentary and a 30 minute documentary (in addition to the supplements you’d find on the stand-alone Blu-ray).