Book vs The Movie: The Town
I began this feature with Jaws. Ultimately I liked the book a lot, but I loved the film. Spielbergs classic took the win. This time we look at The Town. Adapted for screen by Ben Affleck and starring the man himself alongside Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively and Jon Hamm. I have always been a fan of Ben Affleck. There was a running gag of sorts created by a Family Guy bit that the rest of the world kind of took as fact, that Ben Affleck wasn’t a good actor. This has been proven to be nothing more than a meme that people took to heart for some stupid reason. Now every actor has a dud or two and there is no defending Gigi. Since then Affleck has done a really good job of defining his range as an actor.
But with Gone Baby Gone Ben Affleck stepped behind the camera. based on the novel by Dennis Lehane Affleck directed his brother masterfully in what was one of the best crime dramas ever filmed. It was thrilling and full of mystery. The acting was great, the story was great and Afflecks directing and ability to put it all together was great. And Suddenly everyone was back on the Affleck train (until the Batman announcement at least).
Following up such a good movie could have been a daunting task, but Affleck struck gold again. When I saw the trailer for the Town I immediately went out and bought the novel by Chuck Hogan. I thought the premise was really neat and I wanted to make sure that I read the book before seeing the movie because I was really anxious with anticipation to see the film. The book, originally titled The Prince of Thieves was published in 2004.
Chuck Hogan puts you in the center of the slums in Boston. Everything about the setting feels 100% genuine and it’s almost like we are living it with Chuck Himself. The story centers on Doug who is the captain of small group of thieves. Doug’s father was a thief and his mother disappeared early in life. (we later find out she was essentially murdered by the Florist). Doug’s team works for the local crime boss known as the Florists. He runs all of the jobs and takes his cuts. Doug is a former hockey player who screwed the pooch and lost his big chance so he slipped back into the crime game. Although he still steals for a living he has tried to keep his nose clean. Doug is in recovery and has a sponsor. Doug’s best friend for as long as he could remember is Jem. Jem doesn’t make his life easy and is far more enthralled with the life. He frequently does crystal meth and there is an allusion to an incestuous relationship with his sister, who happens to be Dougs ex girlfriend. Unlike Gem Doug wants out.
The book starts with a bank job that gets a little out of hand and Gem takes a hostage. This woman is Claire. They allow her to leave unharmed and she is interviewed by the FBI. FBI agent Farwly wants nothing to do with Charlstown and hates being assigned to the shit hole. He sees this job as an opportunity to get out of Charlstown and away from Boston for good. But he also takes an interest in Claire, and pursues a relationship with her.
Doug is concerned with the possibility that Jem would go find Claire and kill her just to cover their butts, but Doug offers to watch her for a little while to make sure things are clear. In this time he begins a relationship with her. He truly falls for her and she does he. There is a really good dynamic between them and Farwly that doesn’t fully translate in the film.
Like Brody in Jaws, Doug is a man at wits end who is taking it from all angles. He has the FBI on his tail, his friends and allies are raising against him and the florist refuses to let him leave the life. His relationship with Claire complicates matters. Finally the Florist calls upon them for one last job. Robbing Fenway Park during a ball game.
To keep Dougs head clear Jem shows up to Claires house drugged out and reveals that they had taken her hostage and that he is a thief. Discovering this sends Doug over the edge and he relapses into his addictions all of which culminates at Fenway. After the job goes bad Doug heads over to the Florsts to kill him he succeeds but it is shot by some punks who work for the man. Doug then dies.
The film follows this plot pretty closely and the slums of Charlstown are eloquently displayed in the film. Some notable differences in the film are that Frawly doesn’t seem to hate the job nor does he really pursue Claire all that much. The dynamic is there, but he seems to care more about catching the thieves than hooking up with her, which is his main motivation in the book. Jem isn’t the one who reveals the secret to Claire, but Frawly is.
Afflecks portrayal of Doug is masterful and Jeremy Renners turn as Jem gives us one of the coolest, yet most evil bad guys in the history of film. He’s such a dirt bag, but we root for him. In the book Doug is terrified of his father and dreads the fact that he will be getting out of prison soon. In the film his father is in prison for life, but a conversation with him really sets the tone for the movie and makes the upcoming climax that much better.
The climax is virtually the same except one of the four team members doesn’t lose his life in the book. Another key difference is Jems death. In the film he is shot several times after refusing to give up. In the book he has a grenade and take himself and many other police out with him.
Doug heads over to the Florists and succeeds. After which he keeps an eye on Claire who is monitored by the FBI its clear that they can’t be together so he takes off and manages to get away and head to Florida. The film ends with him looking happily, or as close to happy he can be looking over the waters in reflection.
When the dvd/blu rays were released Affleck released two other cuts of the film. Being the huge fan of this moie that I am I bought master collection. What I have described is the theatrical cut. There is also a Directors cut, and the Ben Affleck cut which is the directors cut with an alternate ending.
The directors cuts have virtually all of the missing pieces from the book included. The first cut also ends with Doug getting away to Florida. The Affleck cut ends with Doug being shot and killed by the punk kids at the Florists.
Ultimately I think the changes made in the theatrical cut make for a better film. It’s really a bummer to see the main character have so many tragedies and not persevere. Having Doug get away gave us that little bit of hope that we needed. Also in this version of the film Affleck chooses not to have Doug relapse his drug habits.
In the other versions Doug does go back to using. Seeing this is a huge blow and removes the hope. During my first viewing of the Affleck cut I immediately wondered if Doug would also die now that he had relapsed.
It’s a gripping story and is very well put together. Just reviewing it makes me want to go read it again. However I think the movie is better by just a hair. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not seeing this film. The Hurt Locker may have put Renner on the map, but The Town is what cemented him as a big deal. Afflecks second directional attempt completely overshadows his masterpiece Gone Baby Gone and added a ton of legitimacy to his abilities.
Ultimately this is a tough decision and a close one. But the movie wins this battle.