When considering all the Warner Brothers classics that deserve Ultimate Collector’s Edition status—Casablanca and Ben-Hur, for instance—The Town doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Granted, The Town, one of the best heist pictures I’ve seen in years reestablished director/actor Ben Affleck as a force to be reckon with after the whole “Bennifer” period threatened to make him a tabloid joke. However, after carefully listening to the “new” commentary and looking over the rest of the set, one thing is clear: the film’s third cut, alternate ending, audio commentary, and exclusive “Director’s Journey” documentary could have been included in the original 2010 Blu-ray release. The 3-disc UCE set includes a ten-minute alternate ending (including commentary), an excellent 30-minute documentary, a 48-page booklet and a series of collectibles. If you’re a big fan of the film, or haven’t bought it on Blu-ray yet, this is the perfect opportunity. Otherwise, the question becomes whether to double-dip or not.
Affleck has returned to the director’s chair (and his familiar spot in front of the camera), for The Town, based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a lifelong criminal in the Charlestown area of Boston. Though he robs banks and armored cars, he’s still pretty much a good man. He never wants to kill anyone during a robbery and works for a sand-and-gravel company every day. He is your basic movie antihero, the bad guy you root for. You get the feeling he’s been looking for someone to redeem him, to save him from himself.
Doug and his lifelong best friend Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) have pulled several moderately successful heists, their crew rounded out by a couple of greasy-looking hoodlums named Albert (Slaine) and Desmond (Owen Burke). But while Jim is becoming increasingly violent and erratic, Doug is trying to scale it back. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. And after striking up a romance with a neighborhood girl named Claire (Rebecca Hall), he thinks he might want out of this lifestyle altogether.
In the first few minutes if the film, we see Doug and his crew execute a bank robbery; an alarm gets tripped, and Jim takes the manager of the bank hostage—the manager just happens to be Claire. They wore masks and she never saw their faces, so she has no idea about Doug’s involvement in the robbery.
At the same time, FBI agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) is hot on their trail. Wisely,The Town follows both sides of the law, and there’s as much thrill in seeing Frawley track down clues in pursuit of the bank robbers as there is in seeing the bank robbers evade him. A fantastically staged car chase later in the film splits our allegiances, as we’re unsure whether we want the hunters to catch their prey or not.
The screenplay, written by Affleck with Aaron Stanford, his collaborator on Gone Baby Gone, and Peter Craig is a solid one. Of particular note is the way the way the story quietly acknowledges the subtle class dynamic between the two protagonists, but doesn’t really comment on it. This approach allows viewers to draw some of their own conclusions. Just as he did in Gone Baby Gone, Affleck paints a real sense of place with Charlestown. Colorful characters played by the likes of Blake Lively and the late Pete Postlethwaite give it a gritty authenticity.
Warner has transferred The Town on to Blu-ray using the 2.40:1 ratio. The UCE puts the “Extended Cut with Alternate Ending” on its own Blu-ray disc. As to the look of the transfers, they are very similar to the 2010 release with the image occasionally displaying an intended iron-blue tinge, which is well captured throughout. . Definition is good, with excellent close-ups. Colors are fine, with a gritty, slightly glassy look to them, set off by deep black levels. And outdoor scenes are especially sharp and bright.
Using lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the audio engineers make the most of a soundtrack that has a lot of dialogue. The surrounds aren’t particularly active, but when they are, they are impressive during gunfights and car chases. The rest of the time, the viewer can enjoy a smooth, clear midrange, and extended frequency response, and a wide front-channel stereo spread.
English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, and Turkish subtitles are available.
The Blu-ray disc includes both the R-rated theatrical version (125 minutes) and the unrated extended cut (153 minutes) of the movie, complete with an alternate ending and alternate ending audio commentary. The UCE also features an exclusive 30-minute documentary “The Town: A Director’s Journey.” For you collector’s out there, the set contains a number of collectables including a 48-page photo book that is really quite impressive, a letter from Ben Affleck, a poster-size map of Charlestown (with notes regarding a number of scenes from the film), and a faux-confidential folder filled with miniature prop replicas (a fifteen-page FBI report, four mugshot cards, a Vericom employee file and a sheet of rub-on tattoos).
- NEW – Extended Cut with Alternate Ending: The alternate ending isn’t a real bombshell. However, there are some interesting aspects to the way in which it plays out. By Affleck’s own admission, “it takes the story and makes a hard left turn into the ground” and “does things to the story that I didn’t like.”
- Theatrical Cut Audio Commentary: Affleck is surprisingly personable as he discusses production details, shares entertaining anecdotes, dissects individual shots and scenes, describes shooting techniques, mistakes, and more.
- Extended Cut Audio Commentary: An extension of Affleck’s Theatrical Cut chat, it gives the director the opportunity to discuss seemingly everything about the film, including the differences between the various cuts that emerged over the course of the production.
- NEW – Extended Cut with Alternate Ending Audio Commentary: The new Ultimate Collector’s Edition commentary track is yet another extension, this time an extension of the Extended Cut commentary. In it, Affleck details the differences between the theatrical and alternate endings and the reasons he chose to include the alternate ending here and exclude it from the theatrical cut. While interesting, this one is likely reserved for those who just can’t get enough of audio commentaries.
- NEW – The Town: A Director’s Journey (HD, 30 minutes): Without pulling any punches, Affleck discusses the success and failures of the project. His humility is truly refreshing, as he openly discusses his faults.
- “Ben’s Boston” Focus Points (HD, 31 minutes): Six behind-the-scenes featurettes are available, and can be accessed individually from the main menu or while watching the theatrical cut with the disc’s in-movie experience engaged. Segments 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.”
- Extended Cut Scene Indicator: With this simple but brilliant feature, a small icon appears on screen to signify scenes that don’t appear in the theatrical version of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 minutes)
- Standard DVD
- UV Digital Copy
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