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Town, The (2010) Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 December 2010
ImageBen Affleck has become a more prolific filmmaker than anyone would have thought from his early days in Kevin Smith productions.  However, “Good Will Hunting” pretty much changed all that.  No an award winning filmmaker, Affleck was able to go on and act in serious drama/action films and begin his solo filmmaking career.

“Gone Baby Gone” was a gritty crime thriller that for some reason or another brings “Pride And Glory” to mind, although, “Gone Baby Gone” was infinitely better than the latter.  Now, Affleck has directed and starred in “The Town” which garnered Oscar buzz from the moment it was released.  I can remember hearing whispers abound when this little, non-blockbuster film hit theaters back in September.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything that drives me to the theaters these days.  I just assume as much to wait for disc to be released on home video and watch it in my own theater.  But, I was eagerly awaiting the release of “The Town.”  While it may not have lived up to all the buzz, it is still one of the best movies of 2010 in my opinion.

“The Town” is all about balance.  Balancing the drama, personal sequences with the heists is the only way to keep the audience from squirming in their seats.  Affleck and his writing team have done just that.  In fact, I was never sitting there wishing they would just skip to the heist sequences.  While they were well executed, for me it was more about the personal relationships of the film and the thrill of the hunt.

Affleck steps in front of the camera in this film to portray Doug MacRay, a Charlestown-born man who robs banks and armored vehicles for a living with his crew.  When the film opens we find MacRay and his gang robbing the town bank and taking the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage.

Thanks to MacRay’s overzealous partner (Jeremy Renner), MacRay must track down the bank manager and make sure that she is unable and unwilling to cooperate with the FBI.  It doesn’t take more than a weeping moment at a laundry mat by Claire to get MacRay to start falling for her.  So, the romance isn’t original.  It is still well executed by the filmmakers and the actors.
Meanwhile, the Florist, the boss behind all the robberies in Charlestown has new job after new job for MacRay and his crew.  MacRay doesn’t feel it should be so hard to just up and leave.  However, neither his close friend nor the Florist will let it happen.  They hold guilt and girlfriends over his head to keep him in the game.

On top of MacRay’s personal involvement with Claire, he must face his relationship with his imprisoned father, a psycho ex-girlfriend (who just so happens to be his best friend’s sister) and stay ahead of the FBI team that is close to putting him and his friends away for a very long time.

“The Town” is exhilarating without the non-stop heist action that you might have expected.  I can promise you that if you have an interest in watching this film, then you will not be disappointed.

The video transfer of “The Town” by Warner is a tough one to pin down.  There are numerous factors that affect the outcome of the visual quality.  First, the filmmakers had specific intentions for the visual style of this film.  The hues are accurate for the location.  Skintones may appear drained but they are accurate, barring a few sequences in which the fleshtones actually fluctuate right in front of your very eyes.  Still, the color timing has been specifically chosen by Affleck.  The black levels are strong and bold.  Colors are not vibrant, but they are solidly resolved.  Details are exceptional.  Close-up shots provide as much detail and texture as any of the greats out there.  Soft shots do arise on occasion but seem to originate from the source.  There is some ringing throughout the film but nothing that is a distraction.  Where issues may arise due to the transfer is because of the number of cuts of the film on the disc.  This one dual-layered Blu-ray disc has two cuts; the theatrical and an extended cut.  The original cut is just over two hours and the extended cut is about one half of one hour longer than that.  Unlike many of the Blu-rays that get released with multiple cuts of the film, “The Town” does not use seamless branching.  Therefore, there are two different encoded films housed on this one disc.  This doesn’t leave much room for video bitrate.  In fact, some people will be stunned at how low the video drops.  They will immediately assume that the encode is the source of all evil with the video.  But it isn’t that simple.  Yes, there is crushing in the blacks and there is some minor artifacting.  While, it is probably likely that these issues stem from the transfer it is difficult to tell.  Nevertheless, “The Town” looks great on Blu-ray.  It is gritty and showcases the emotions of the film well.

Like the video, the audio comes in two different tracks.  Both are DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio tracks, but the theatrical version is in 24-bit while the extended cut is in 16-bit.  The extended version is not exactly horrible from a professional standpoint, but it extremely subpar when compared with the original.  Whoever did the downconvert from 24 to 16 bits might have been asleep at the wheel, but I could hear numerous waveform errors from the chopping of 8-bits from the system.  Trust, stick with the theatrical version of the film and its 24-bits.  The audio is precise.  The most dominating aspect is the LFE channel.  The gunshots and explosions are supple.  One of the most impressive sound design elements I have heard this year occurs when smoke/sonic grenades are tossed into the Fenway park hold up toward the end of the film.  The LFE channel actually spreads and flows from front to rear.  It is difficult to get low-frequency effects to move with purpose, but it is done nicely here.  The dialogue is, for the most part clear.  It is certainly weighty and this is sometimes its downfall.  The weighty nature of the dialogue with the heavy Boston accents leave some of the lines unintelligible, or at the very least quick difficult to make out each syllable.  Part of this is the production dialogue recording.  However, EQ adjustments could have been made to make the dialogue a bit less straining at times.  The surround channels are nearly always active and engaging.  The ambience is generally convincing.  Discrete effects are excellent in the rear channels when it comes to heist moments.  The directionality is perfect.  The dynamic range is impressive with the original 24-bit mix.  The 16-bit mix track not so much.  Judging the 24-bit audio track, this is a top-notch transfer with excellent sound design.

Aside from coming to Blu-ray with two cuts of the film, both cuts come with an audio commentary by Affleck.  These are perhaps the best commentaries that I have heard all year.  These are not two completely different commentaries.  The extended cut simply has the theatrical commentary edited with more content.  These commentaries offer humble insights into the make of the film and just about every aspect of its creation that you could ask for.

“Ben’s Boston” is a set of focus points, totaling six featurettes.  These focus points can be viewed individually or as part of the movie.  With the latter, the featurette plays and then the movie resumes playback, back and forth throughout the film.  This is not a PiP track.  The disc is also BD-Live enabled and comes with a DVD/Digital Copy Combo disc.

“The Town” is not perfect and is not for everyone.  For me it was a breath of fresh air after a long year of underwhelming films.  That isn’t to say that it doesn’t stand well on its own, because it does.  The video quality is up for debate, and probably will be for some time. However, I found it to be more than pleasing.  The audio quality nears perfection with the 24-bit version.  All in all, “The Town” gets a highly recommended from me.

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