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Bank robber Doug MacRay gets romantically involved with a woman who doesn't know he was her captor during a heist. This sets in motion a conflict of him wanting to leave the life, but getting held back by his friends.
For more about The Town and the The Town Blu-ray release, see the The Town Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine
Director: Ben Affleck
» See full cast & crew
The Town Blu-ray Review
Overkill? Maybe. But that doesn't make this anything less than an excellent release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 27, 2012
The Town isn't exactly the first film that comes to mind when considering Warner Brothers productions that warrant an Ultimate Collector's Edition release. Don't get me wrong, it's a strong heist flick -- arguably even a worthy successor to Heat -- and it solidifies Ben Affleck as a force to be reckoned with behind the camera. But after digging through the set and paying close attention to clues in the "new" commentary, one thing became clear: the film's third cut, alternate ending, audio commentary, and exclusive "Director's Journey" documentary should have and, more to the point, could have been included on its 2010 Blu-ray counterpart. That doesn't render the Ultimate Collector's Edition a lesser release, mind you. Far from it. But it smacks of double dipping, a trend cost-conscious consumers are sensitive to. So does The Town deserve another chance to loot your wallet? If you already own the 2010 release, that depends. The 3-disc UCE set offers a ten-minute alternate ending (with commentary), a terrific 30-minute documentary, a 48-page booklet and a series of bonus collectibles. If you feel that justifies the cost of admission, you won't be disappointed. If you feel the up-charge is unreasonable, hold out for a price drop or write this one off altogether. If, however, you don't already own the 2010 release and have been eye-balling The Town for some time now, the UCE is definitely the way to go. Again, so long as the price difference between the two doesn't scare you off...
Based on Chuck Hogan's Hammett Prize-winning novel "Prince of Thieves," The Town is a slowburn crime thriller cut from the same cloth as Michael Mann's Heat and, unsurprisingly, Gone Baby Gone. This time though, Affleck steps in front of the camera as Doug MacRay, a clever career criminal who begins to develop feelings for a woman named Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), the manager of a bank he and his partners recently robbed. It doesn't take long for things to unravel. Doug's affection is born from guilt (never a strong foundation for a relationship), his cohort and lifelong friend (The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner) would rather tie up loose ends than allow Doug to snuggle up with a witness, a local crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite) applies even more pressure to an already volatile situation, MacRay's ex (Blake Lively) refuses to roll over and let the love of her life leave town, and Claire reveals she has information that could help the authorities identify one of her captors. Worse, FBI agents Adam Frawley (Madmen's Jon Hamm) and Dino Ciampa (Lost's Titus Welliver) are hot on the trail of the crew and closing in fast. Needless to say, Doug is forced to make some very difficult decisions.
Affleck's second film adheres to genre convention far more than his first -- The Town cues up golden-oldies like "One Last Heist," "Lovelorn Criminal," "Downtown Shootout," "Near Perfect Crime" and "The Heat is Comin' Around the Corner," among others -- but between the ensemble's award-worthy performances, Doug and his partners' heartfelt local-boys dynamic, and the director's masterfully staged heists, it hardly matters. Affleck, Renner, Hamm and Hall create characters that won't soon be forgotten, and the actors all but fade away, replaced by a cast of authentic victims of circumstance and choice struggling to fulfill whatever role life has assigned each one. Hall in particular is a heartbreaking revelation, and deserves more attention than any one writer could provide; Affleck draws quiet strength from within, all while restraining the cocksure playfulness he would have indulged ten years ago; Renner boils over to great effect, brandishing every impulse and emotion that bubbles to the surface on his blood-spattered sleeve; and Hamm provides earnest flashes of a fractured soul consumed by his work and frustrated by the isolation it brings. Not to be outdone, Affleck's supporting cast and crew eliminate any hint of a slick Hollywood production, making Affleck's crime-infested Charlestown a fully realized character in its own right.
The Town unearths layer after layer of tragedy, hopelessness and multi-generational conflict, all while Affleck and co-writers Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard strike a careful balance between the film's exhilarating heists and its somber interpersonal drama. Palpable tension pulses beneath each scene (albeit at the expense of levity), and even the most convenient plot developments are anchored to reality in one way or another. Doug and Claire don't intuitively come together; they circle at a distance, dance a hesitant dance, and retreat in insecurity, transforming what could have been a silly love story into a fascinating pairing. By the same token, Affleck and Renner could have rough-n-tumbled their way through the film's most compelling relationship, but they do the exact opposite. Theirs feels like a genuine, lifelong friendship, and their subsequent moral dilemmas seem more critical as a result. And every character, to some degree, is bound and chained to Charlestown; a home, a prison and an inescapable way of life. The Town may not be a perfect film -- comparisons to Heat are unavoidable (and, sad to say, a tad unfavorable), especially when it comes to their strikingly similar third acts -- but as a character-driven genre pic, it works wonders.
The Town Blu-ray, Video Quality
Well that's one mystery solved. The original Blu-ray release of The Town featured two separate 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encodes on a single BD-50 disc; a 125-minute theatrical transfer and a 153-minute extended cut presentation. Without seamless branching, each encode's video bitrate took troubling dives, outraging some snap-judgment spec junkies. (Perhaps rightfully so, even if on principle alone.) No matter how good either version looked -- and both versions looked and continue to look great -- a question persisted: could either cut have looked better if it had been given more room to breathe? Thankfully, the new Ultimate Collector's Edition presentation all but puts that question to bed, as the "Extended Cut with Alternate Ending" is presented on a separate BD-50 with a generous 25+ Mbps encode all its own. But is it any better? Yes... but honestly, not that much better. While relentless screenshot scientists (particularly those with a bone to pick) will no doubt uncover any and every improvement they stumble upon while poring over the UCE's 25+ Mbps encode, down to the briefest blip and most penitent pixel, there aren't any significant differences to report, at least none that can be easily detected by the naked eye. With the film in motion and while sitting at a proper viewing distance, all three encodes are comparable. Slight ringing and crush, however minor, make similar appearances across all three presentations, regardless of bitrate, and all three feature similar highs and relative lows. There are some fairly innocuous differences, though. By my estimation, the new encode's grain field is a bit more refined and even, and artifacting isn't as prevalent. (Not that the infrequent, almost negligible artifacting that pops up from time to time in the original presentations sullies either one.)
All that being said, if do-or-die videophiles relied on nothing but their eyes to evaluate The Town's three terrific transfers, there wouldn't be any desire to analyze screenshots on a pixel-by-pixel, bit-by-bit basis. Robert Elswit's chilly streetwise palette is brimming with windy Boston blues, primaries have a cold but calculating veracity, skintones are purposefully withdrawn yet undeniably lifelike, and black levels are deep, evocative and foreboding. Likewise, tremendous respect has been paid to Affleck's every cinematic choice, be it his color timing or the stark splashes of light and shadow he brandishes from scene to scene. And detail? Closeups are teeming with crisp, revealing, magnificently resolved fine textures, the film's gritty veneer of grain is intact, and edge definition is sharp and natural. Yes, soft shots are fairly common, and yes, minor edge halos are apparent from time to time. However, the filmic softness and inherent inconsistencies that grace the proceedings aren't a serious issue -- each one traces back to Elswit's original photography, not some mysterious issue with either transfer -- and the faint ringing that appears isn't obtrusive, never becomes a distraction, and was visible in the film's theatrical print. Moreover, banding and aliasing are MIA, substantial macroblocking is nowhere to be found, and DNR clearly isn't in play. Simply put, The Town looks great, no matter which version you choose. Not perfect, but great. I walked away a happy man.
The Town Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Town also features three separate DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks, none of which require any lengthy defense. On the contrary, all three lossless audio presentations are primed to drop jaws, bruise sternums, and engage even the most detached audiophiles. Brawny LFE output grants gunshots realistic resonance, collisions unnerving weight, and explosions deafening power; immersive rear speaker activity transports listeners to every dank bar, crowded street corner, bustling bank, noisy stadium and wind-swept community garden the characters inhabit; and the soundfield is as enveloping as it is believable. And it only gets better from there. Whether whispered at a streetside cafe, snarled in a kingpin's flower shop, or screamed during a botched heist, dialogue remains clear and distinct, and never gets buried beneath the film's ensuing chaos. Voices are grounded perfectly in Affleck's bleak Boston cityscape, and directional effects are precise and convincing. No flashbang superficiality or sleight-of-hand here; just top-notch sound design and top-tier sonics. Simply put, Warner's lossless tracks represent the high point of The Town's Ultimate Collector's Edition release, and will thoroughly satisfy anyone and everyone caught in any of the tracks' crossfire.
The Town Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to the 125-minute theatrical and 153-minute extended versions of the film, the Ultimate Collector's Edition of The Town includes a second 153-minute extended cut, complete with an alternate ending and alternate ending audio commentary. But that's not all, dear collectors. The UCE also features "The Town: A Director's Journey" (an exclusive 30-minute production documentary) and a number of bonus collectibles, chief among them a 48-page photo book (that's actually worth perusing), a letter from director Ben Affleck, a poster-size map of Charlestown (with notes on several scenes from the film), and a faux-confidential folder packed with miniature prop replicas (a fifteen-page FBI report, four mugshot cards, a Vericom employee file and a sheet of rub-on tattoos). Whether all of that justifies purchasing The Town a second time I leave to each of you.
The UCE is packaged in a sturdy, over-sized, side-access box-sleeve that measures 7½ h x 5 ¾ w x 1½ d. Inside, you'll find a 3-disc Digipak (that houses two BD-50 discs and a single DVD), a small manila folder (containing the letter, poster, and collectibles), and the set's 48-page photo book. (You can view the set's contents by clicking on the "Back" link (below the front cover art) at the top of this page.)
The Town Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What does the Ultimate Collector's Edition of The Town offer that the standard version doesn't already feature? An iffy alternate ending, a slightly improved "Extended Cut with Alternate Ending" 25+ Mbps video presentation, ten-minutes of additional commentary with Ben Affleck, a 30-minute production documentary, and a variety of bonus collectibles. Is that worth Warner's current asking price? That depends on how much you value owning a three-cut release of the film; one primed for completists and collectors but bound to alienate anyone whose brow furrows at the mention of the words "double dip."
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