Blu-ray Roundup: New Extended Cut of Ben Affleck's THE TOWN Offers a Radically Different Ending

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This review of The Town focuses on the alternate ending available through Warner Home Entertainment’s The Town: Ultimate Collector’s Edition. If you do not want to know the ending, click HERE for my general, less spoiler-heavy assessment of the extended cut.

Warner’s new Ultimate Collector’s Edition represents The Town‘s third Blu-ray incarnation.  That number may seem excessive (I’m a Town fan, and I question the need for it to have as many Blu-ray iterations as The Godfather), but this package has an ace up its sleeve, since writer/director/star Ben Affleck has reedited an alternate ending into his previously available extended cut.

The new Town ending changes the tone of the entire picture.  In the theatrical version and the earlier extended cut, Affleck finishes on a note of bittersweet triumph.  His tortured hood Doug MacRay has escaped from a life of crime, but that freedom comes at a high cost: police officers have killed his friends in the Fenway Park heist that lets Doug buy his freedom, and the truth about Doug’s criminal lifestyle has driven away the woman he loves.  Watching Doug stare out into the distance from the relative safety of his Florida hideout says a lot about the perils of a life spent in sin; now that he has the time, regret seeps in.

This new extended cut doesn’t work the same way.  Until the last ten minutes, it’s business as usual.  Doug and his gang break into the Fen; the cops show up; the resulting shootout/getaway claims the lives of Doug’s three partners; Doug gets away clean and takes out Pete Postlethwaite’s venal crime lord; he confirms that the FBI is using his ex-girlfriend as bait; and he simultaneously dodges that trap while leaving Jon Hamm’s head agent one last FU.  You might think you’ve put in the wrong disc…

…except Affleck throws in one last twist: on the way out of town, Doug runs into the three hoods that he and best friend Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, who gives The Town‘s best performance no matter which edit you watch) tooled up at the start of the movie, and they shoot him dead.  Forget Florida—now Doug is bleeding to death just outside Boston’s city limits, staring up at the sky and trying to imagine what could have been.

Doug’s death comes as a shock, but here’s the thing: it’s only a shock if you’re familiar with The Town in any of its previous forms.  I flinched because I expected Doug to live; thematically, the violent dénouement better fits genre expectations.  The Town is part of a lineage that includes such crime classics as The Public Enemy, Angels with Dirty Faces, Straight Talk, and Carlito’s Way, and those pictures all end the same way, with the hero’s insides splattered on the pavement.  Maybe it’s some vestigial trace of the Hays Code, but we subconsciously expect our criminal protagonists to pay the ultimate price for their transgressions.

In that regard, the original Town ending is more unexpected, though I have issues with both conclusions.  Doug in Florida is unexpected and—truth be told—more than a little unbelievable.  How he dodges the maelstrom of police bullets flying his way beggars belief, and the cross-cutting between a wistful Doug alone “in paradise” and his ex-girlfriend as she digs up money—and a clue about his whereabouts—he left for her feels like Affleck the director really liked The Shawshank Ending‘s finale and wanted to stealreference it.

However, Dead Doug has issues, too.  I prefer its harder edge (it lends weight to the enjoyably soapy tone of the film); I just think it plays out in the most clichéd fashion possible.  In the last two weeks alone, I have watched three crime movies where a minor threat from the first act kills the hero just as he thinks he’s out of harm’s way—Carlito’s Way, Layer Cake, and London Boulevard.  The Town joins their ranks, and where the “happy” ending offered an implausible surprise, this “sad” B-side is logically predictable.  As a result, I’d give both Town extended cuts the same verdict: an exciting, first-rate B-movie that stumbles slightly in its final moments.

Warner has encased The Town in a sturdy box set loaded with collectible materials.  These include:

  • Letter from Affleck
  • 48-page hardcover booklet on the making of the film
  • Map of Charlestown with crime scene details
  • Replicas of Jem’s neck tattoo, Desmond Elden’s Vericom file, FBI mug shot cards, and Agent Frawley’s FBI report

The level of physical detail is impressive, but the new cut of the film looks even better.  It gets its own Blu-ray, with sharp HD imaging (no grain, no aliasing) and a percussive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.  The original extended cut and theatrical cut share another Blu-ray, and they look awfully good as well, though the inclusion of both features on one disc causes some minor A/V compression issues.  Between the two Blu-rays, you get DVD and UV copies and these supplements:

  • All new The Town: A Director’s Journey documentary
  • Ben Affleck commentary on all three versions
  • Six “Focus Points” featurettes (Pulling Off the Perfect Heist, The Town, Nuns with Guns, The Real People of The Town, Ben Affleck: Actor and Director, The Cathedral of Boston)
  • Trailer

The commentary is worth the price of the Blu-ray, and the featurettes go into greater detail than their sixty-minute runtime might suggest.

This is the most comprehensive version of The Town on the market.  You get three cuts of the film with great A/V quality, solid bonus materials, and some nice collectible materials.  However, the almost-$40 price is a little steep, and if you already own the theatrical/extended cut combo pack, you already have two-thirds of the digital material found here; you need to decide if the new edit and Affleck-centric bonus documentary is worth the plunge.  Still, Town fans should be very pleased with Warner’s work.

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition of The Town streets on March 6th.  Click HERE for Amazon’s listing.

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