Ben Affleck’s The Town – where it lost its way

by on October 23, 2010

in Film analysis, Screenwriting tips, Story structure

The Town Movie Poster Ben Affleck

I wasn’t expecting a lot from Ben Affleck’s second feature but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a heist flick with smarts. However we’re prevented from feeling any great sense of release at the end of the film by a couple of fairly serious problems in the screenplay.

[SPOILER ALERT: I am going to reveal key details of the plot so, please, go see the film before proceeding. It’s well worth watching and highly instructive for screenwriting students because it’s good in parts and flawed in others.]

What did I like?

The concept isn’t bad. When a career criminal falls for the manager of a bank he robbed, he risks conviction and death trying to escape a life that won’t let go. There is juxtaposition. Clear Action and Relationship lines. High stakes. It’s an idea with a lot going for it.

The film makes good use of dramatic irony – (where we know more than the characters) – in the early exchanges between MacRay (Affleck) and the Bank Manager, Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and in the later scene where Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), with the incriminating tattoo on his neck, surprises the unlikely couple.

The set pieces and car chases create genuine tension. Renner is believable as a Charlestown skel, Pete Postlethwaite is pure evil as Fergie the Florist, and Jon Hamm is menacing and gets a lot of the film’s best lines as FBI Agent Frawley. In fact, there is a general intelligence that pervades this script and contributes enormously to the pleasure of the journey. If only it had taken us somewhere more satisfying, which brings me to …

What didn’t I like?

The start is a little clunky. Even Coughlin’s fellow gang members are surprised when he breaks with procedure and takes the bank manager hostage for no apparent reason.

There is dubious motivation again when they decide, after letting her go, “to keep an eye on her”. Huh? If you’re worried she’ll identify you, why not kill her? How is tailing her going to help exactly? What are you waiting to see? Whatever. The real motivation behind both of these first 2 plot points is not the character’s but the writer’s. He’s just trying to throw his 2 leads together. Fair enough. But it’s what happens next where the screenplay really begins to falter.

Career criminal, Doug McRay, whose father is currently in the pen for bank robbery, who labours at Boston Sand and Gravel and who’s grown up in one of Boston’s meanest suburbs, Charlestown, should be the chalk to Keesey’s elegant yuppie bank manager cheese but he’s not. He’s more like the Roquefort to her Gorgonzola.

This is partly down to the casting of Ben Affleck as McRay. While Renner looks suitably scuzzy as Coughlin and is almost unrecognisable from The Hurt Locker, Ben looks like what he is: a movie star. But the lack of sizzle between them isn’t helped by the script.

There just isn’t enough distance between these two characters. From their very first conversation at the laundromat, they get on like they’ve been paired by This not only defies credulity, it diminishes conflict and reduces what we can ultimately feel for this relationship. If it’s that easily acquired, why should we care if it’s lost?

Compare The Town with Witness, for example. Structurally, they’re quite similar. A crime in Act 1 throws together a Yin and Yang couple, which turns Act 2 into a romance, which will be threatened by the resolution of the crime in Act 3. Witness is one of the greatest films ever made because there is a gulf a couple of centuries wide between John Book (Harrison Ford) and Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis). The gap between MacRay and Keesey, by contrast, is an impatient New York minute.

But the major reservation I have with the screenplay is the ending.

MacRay, as the protagonist, should be active at the climax and he’s not. When they are hemmed in at Fenway Park and their cause seems irretrievably lost, it’s not MacRay whose enterprise and/or courage saves the day. It’s not even Coughlin, MacRay’s best friend and quasi-brother who engineers their escape but the rarely sighted Magloan. If we knew this guy from Adam and had come to care deeply about him, this could have been an Oates “I am just going outside and may be some time” sort of moment. But even if that had been a moving sacrifice, to earn his hero’s spurs MacRay would still have to confront and overcome his antagonist, and he doesn’t. Like an NFL running back, he just glides through the gap created by the blocking of Gloansy and Coughlin and swans off into the sunset. Sure, he then guns down Fergie, which makes us feel good but, since it doesn’t involve a demonstration of character, it doesn’t deliver any sense of catharsis.

Yet, a wonderful ending was within the film’s grasp.

We’d had that scene where Coughlin reveals that he’d done 9 years in the slammer because he’d killed a guy who was gunning for his best buddy, MacRay. That created a debt that should have made it very difficult for MacRay to leave.

And, later, when MacRay looks to be home free, he watches Frawley follow Coughlin, and you think, “Oh, how good is this?” He could get away but the debt he owes to Coughlin will oblige him to try to save his friend and in the process he’s going to get killed. This would have realised the premise that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons, or some such. But no. He doesn’t save his friend. He just stands idly by – this is the protagonist we’re talking about here, folks – as the guy who saved his life is gunned down.

In taking that limp option, what does the film have to say? Not a whole lot. What is his sacrifice? That he’s not able to live with his loved one but he does get to lead a pretty idyllic life down in the bayou. Moved, anyone? No, I didn’t think so.

You wonder why they took that course. I haven’t read the novel upon which it’s based, Chuck Hogan’s The Prince of Thieves, but, in reading a few reviews online, several people say they felt let down by the ending so it’s likely the film is faithful to the book. It shouldn’t have been.

It’s interesting how many writers (and producers and studios) are afraid to kill off their heroes, yet it’s lily-livered, counter-productive folly. Would One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest have been half the film if McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) hadn’t died? Would we revere Dead Poets Society if Neil hadn’t wrapped his mouth around a Smith and Wesson? Would American History X have had anything to say if Danny hadn’t died by the sword brother Derek had forged? God spare us from endings dictated by focus group research.

The Town is smart, its action scenes are gripping and it takes us on a thrilling sprint – to mix my sports metaphors – all the way to third base. It just doesn’t bring us home. That’s a pity. Because with a stronger relationship and a ballsier ending, it might just have found itself among the great heist flicks.

When is my next 2-day screenwriting course?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelley McLaren October 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Great analysis.

I think I’ll have to watch it again to really digest this enough to make a call on the ending, but I can say that as I was watching, I was silently begging Affleck’s character NOT to save Coughlin and sacrifice himself. This doesn’t mean that ending wouldn’t have created a greater catharsis – I was involved with the character enough for that to have felt completely devastating. However, I think the set up along the way would have to be quite different to really pull off a tragic ending that really satisfied (rather than caused frustration or annoyance). What Coughlin did for Affleck would have to be a more substantial part of the film and it would have to be something a little more deserving than a hot-head like him killing someone, when that kind of violence doesn’t seem that big a deal for him anyway. Also, I believe the structure of romance itself has to be very different for an ‘up-ending’ to a ‘down-ending’ – from the way the dramatic question is posed to the timing of when the characters assert their love and so on.

That said, I think this film deliberately walked the line between these two structures so that the ending could be particularly unpredictable (actually not always a great thing) and so that it could neither conform completely to a tragic end or a happy end. This is dangerous ground to walk – but may be the reason that so many of us want to talk about this film after we leave the cinema.

evie October 24, 2010 at 2:00 am

Exactly Shelley!Like he did with Gone,baby ,Gone.It would have been nice to tie it all up end and have the the little girl end up with Morgan Freedman’s character but that would ‘ve made it like all Hollywood endings.By doing the opposite,he made people want to talk about it after wards.He tried to do this with the Town.If he died with Jem ,it would not have worked or if he ran away with Claire.He wanted to get away at all cost.Even if it meant deserting the people he loved.
I liked the ending.

Gael November 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

Very interesting analysis. I agree with Shelley in that the set-up of the film would have to have been different to make Allen’s suggested change to the story work. I also felt that Jem didn’t gun the guy down purely out of loyalty to Doug but that he was a hothead who got off on violence so I didn’t think he had to sacrifice himself for Jem and I felt that his character’s no 1 motivation was to get out of town at all costs. Though I did feel slightly unsatisfied that he just slunk away so maybe they could have added in a small challenge at that point, not sure what though. Where I really felt they ‘over-egged’ things was in the ‘and then this happened endings’ – I liked when Claire saved him and he ended up on the train and for me that’s when the credits should have rolled. I did not need to see her finding $ and then donating it to the rink under his dead mum nor did I need to see our movie star Ben gazing idly out over the bayou. Those elements ruined what he set up before. Doug had left at all costs and once he got on the train, I didn’t want to see him. I would have liked it to end there so I could contemplate what could have happened next. The gift to her was too neat and trying to wrap absolutely everything and drew attention to the implausible bits of the story and detracted from the bittersweet emotions already set up.

Allen Palmer November 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

Yes, indeed. Too much “happiness” that generates absolutely no joy for the audience.

Kris January 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm

According to IMDB Trivia, The Town was actually another 30 minutes longer, and the original ending was very much what you specified as missing in your review, Allen.

“The original cut that Ben Affleck screened for producers was 4 hours long. After realizing that the film would never appeal to wide audiences, he cut the film down to 2 hours and 50 minutes in three days. After screening that version, the studio and producers loved it but knew that it was still too long. Affleck and producer Basil Iwanyk eventually had to cut beloved footage and personal favorite scenes to make the film work. The film then went through more change at a studio standpoint when they wanted the film at no more than 2hours and 10 minutes. Eventually, Affleck cut the film down to 2 hours and 8 minutes, ultimately trimming action sequences, character development and dialog. Affleck, while happy with the theatrical cut, stated that an Extended Cut will be featured on the DVD and BluRay with deleted scenes on top of that. He also stated that, while the theatrical cut of The Town is a close adaptation of ‘Prince of Thieves’ (the novel which it is based on), the extended cut is a mirror of the novel, staying more true to the book.”

“The Studio heads initially wanted the novel’s ending, which was a darker ending for the film in which Doug (Ben Affleck) is mortally wounded during his shootout with Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite) and ends up dying in Claire’s (Rebecca Hall) apartment in her arms, like in the novel. The ending was filmed but test audiences approved the theatrical version of the ending in which Doug survives.”

Perhaps the extended DVD edition could propel this film to greatness!

Allen Palmer January 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Thanks, Kris. I looked for something like this when I wrote the post. Confirms my suspicions. The story seems to suggest an ending that it doesn’t deliver.

Eli February 10, 2011 at 6:19 am

Sorry Allen, but I’m really glad that you didn’t write The Town. What you’re suggesting is a formulaic, paint-by-numbers Hollywood story. The film was actually refreshing because of the very choices you’re complaining about. I EXPECTED it to make those choices, and I expected to hate it. It didn’t, and I loved it.

Allen Palmer February 10, 2011 at 6:34 am

Isn’t that interesting, Eli. I think that The Town has the kind of “happy” unearned Hollywood ending that is totally unsatisfying. And you love it – ain’t life grand! As you’ll see from Kris’s comments above, apparently Affleck originally wanted – and the novel had – the ending that I would have preferred. “Test audiences” wanted your ending. As mentioned, I wonder whether the great films would have been allowed to have their protagonists die if they’d been “focus-grouped”. The Town is a very good script and it had me for a long time – but the ending lost me. It’s great that it worked for you. To each their own, huh?

Eli February 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

It’s not so much that I wouldn’t want Affleck to die– I just wouldn’t want him to pointlessly lay down his life to save Hurt Locker. That seems like where the typical Hollywood screenwriter would take it. I’m glad it took a more realistic approach, where Affleck’s character said to himself, “this guy may have been my brother at one point, but he’s a dirtbag who just threatened me into doing a job I didn’t want to do and got our partners killed in the process. I have better things to live for.”

If MacRay died in a shootout with the florist, I would’ve been fine. He broke his own “no killing” rule on that last job and it would’ve been cosmic justice.

Also, artist’s intent isn’t necessarily the most important factor in a work of art. Annie Hall was (allegedly) pretty much thrown together from pieces of a completely different movie, and yet it’s still one of the most brilliant films of all time in my opinion.

I agree with you on a lot of other points. It didn’t make sense to kidnap the manager, and it made even less sense to follow her around afterwards. Also, I thought “one of my sunny days” was borderline corny, though it did serve the plot well.

Allen Palmer February 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

Thanks for engaging, Eli. This is an interesting area.

I think writers need to be careful that they don’t avoid certain dramatic endings because they think they are “cliched”. There are no cliched endings. Only cliched executions.

For example, in a romantic comedy, the audience wants the boy and the girl to end up together. That’s not a cliche. That’s a convention. It’s what people pay their money to get. It’s why the ending of Up in the Air upset so many people. It created the expectation that it was a romantic comedy and then it didn’t deliver what the customer paid for. The challenge in romantic comedy is to find a fresh way to surprise and delight audiences while fulfilling this audience expectation. If you’re talented, you’ll make it work – despite the fact that audiences know in general terms what’s coming. If you’re not talented, you’ll either deliver a predictable disappointing execution – or you’ll squib the issue and not have them end up together. This latter option is not creativity; it’s a cop-out.

In relation to The Town, a character choosing to risk death to honour a pledge is not a cliche. It’s a story we’ve been telling for thousands of years. And it’s a story that will always resonate for us. So writers shouldn’t avoid it because it’s been done before. All the stories have been done before. A character choosing to cut ties with his past has been done before too. (American History X, for example). No matter what choice you make, it’s been done. You simply – and unfortunately it’s not that simple – you need to make to make your “old” story seem fresh, and that again comes down to talent and craft.

Nice talking to you, Eli.

Eli February 10, 2011 at 10:13 am

Thank you for responding.

I realize that everything has been done (South Park illustrated this truth very well in their “Simpsons Did It” episode. Also- I seem to recall that you’re not a big fan, but McKee explains this same concept in ‘Story’). My problem if MacRay had laid down his life for Jeremy Renner would be that it wouldn’t make any sense, beyond being what the audience would expect. I consider myself an honorable guy, and after what MacRay went through, I would’ve done the exact same thing he did. MacRay’s life was worth something. Renner’s was not.

Guest March 19, 2011 at 8:38 am

A few comments:

– I am in total agreement with Allen that the relationship between MacRay and Claire is entirely implausible. Girls like that don’t date guys like him. So the whole premise of the movie doesn’t work.

– Why do they kill off everyone – all the heist buddies, the florist, the florist’s crony? I don’t know why people in Hollywood sometimes think that the most dramatic ending is to have everyone, or almost everyone, die. Sometimes less is more. When everyone dies, it lessons the emotional tug. How moved do we feel when anonymous crew members die in the background in Star Trek?

If I were casting this movie:
– Ben Affleck would speak in his normal, everyday speaking voice, not an accent. His “pawk the caw behind Hawvud yawd” (park the car behind Harvard yard) shtick was really distracting in some scenes.
– Blake Lively would not play Krista Coughlin. Lively cannot pull off a blue collar demeanor. Remember Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile? She was a lot more convincing.

I would make this character change:
– Claire would be from a working class background. She is not a manager at the bank, just a teller. She went to a two year community college program. Her family is proud that she is starting down the path towards middle-classdom. Yet, she hasn’t quite shed her working class air. We don’t need to have her brother die of cancer. In fact, we wouldn’t even need to know if she has a brother.

– I think a lot of the problems stem from the fact that Ben Affleck was involved in writing, acting, and directing. He lost the story for the star vehicle.

– Even though this movie is set in the present day, I still got the sense that I was looking at it through some slight haze of nostalgia, like this is the way the author remembers Boston as a child. For some reason, it seemed that the author of the story originally planned to make this a period piece set in the 70’s or early 80’s, but then changed his mind. Part of the reason for this was because there were virtually no minorities in the film. Is present day Boston really this white?

Guest March 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

If this story were mine to write, I would make the following changes:

In the loading bay after the end of the heist at the stadium, I would do this:
– Elden gets shot as he does, but instead of dying instantly, he rolls around groaning ignominiously.

– When Gloansy sees how unsexy it is to die, he decides to surrender. He strips down to his shorts, and then gets in the ambulance. The van to rolls out of the bay, and Gloansy moves to the back of it. It rolls out into the street in and comes to an awkward stop. The back door opens a crack. The police start firing on the van, but are then ordered to stop. The van doors open all the way, and Gloansy comes out, in his shorts, with his hands up. He is arrested.

– During this distraction, MacRay and Coughlin make the escape as in the movie. Coughlin decides he is leaving Boston with MacRay.

– Coughlin and MacRay temporarily part ways to prepare to leave.

– Then the shootout between Frawley and Coughlin occurs, but Coughlin gets away.

– MacRay calls Claire. He plans to meet her, but figures out the police are at her place. Though in my version, the police don’t make it quite so obvious that they are at Claire’s apartment. MacRay still figures out they are there, but not because four of them are all standing in the bay window.

– MacRay then goes to bury the money in the garden. (But as in the movie, we don’t explicitly see this.)

– MacRay then goes to the florist shop. But the florist and the florist’s crony are waiting for him. They’ve already called the cops. MacRay is about to shoot the florist and his crony when the cops arrive. A big shootout occurs. No one dies.

– MacRay gets arrested. Nothing happens to the florist and his crony. For them, the beat goes on.

– Coughlin escapes, on the bus, and then gets to the train station. He waits there for MacRay, but when he realizes MacRay isn’t coming, he gets on the train and leaves.

– Claire finds the money, but surrenders it to the authorities.


– Krista Coughlin has cleaned herself up. We see her in a tidy apartment. Her daughter is now 11. She kisses her daughter as she leaves for work and tells the nanny that she’ll be back really late. She steps outside. It’s dark out.

– The florist has died of natural causes. His crony eulogizes him. The funeral is well attended.

– Claire is involved in politics and gets funding for the arena. It is not dedicated to MacRay’s mom.

– Gloansy, MacRay and MacRay’s dad are in prison. We see them together in the cafeteria, or workout area, or whatever.

– Next, four young men are pulling off a heist in a Vegas Casino at 2:00 a.m. They all escape to the getaway vehicle, driven by Krista Coughlin.

– The vehicle pulls into an alleyway behind a strip mall. Everyone gets out and enters a small shoe repair shop. We see the owner? It’s Coughlin, of course.

Is this cliché? I don’t think it is. But if it is, at least there’s some irony here. The actual ending is utterly devoid of irony.

Guest March 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

Oops. I meant to put:
– “We see the owner.”
rather than:
– “We see the owner?”

mplo January 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm

What an excellent story, Guest!

Thanks for this!

Hey….Ben Affleck’s movie “The Town” can’t even begin to compete with “West Side Story”. I guess I’ll stick with that.

mplo February 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

Here’s how “The Town” would’ve been written, if it had been my story to write:

The beginning of “The Town” (i. e. the aerial shots of Charlestown and the opening bank heist is the same. Her assistant manager is beaten within inches of his life by “Jem”, who hits him several times, hard, with the butt of his rifle until Doug intervenes. Claire is taken as a hostage, driven in a van to Southie and let go, unharmed, but blindfolded, and left behind. Claire then manages to remove the blindfold and band that’s tying her hands, after much of a struggle.

Doug, who’s been tailing Claire, meets her by chance in a laundromat, and asks Claire, who’s been weeping and groveling over the memory of the robbery, the beating and permanent injury to her colleague, and her abduction. Again, Doug humours Claire by joshing with her and telling dumb jokes, making Claire laugh. He asks her out for a drink. After sizing Doug up and sensing that something’s not right, Claire turns him down. Doug, however, is very persistent, and finally Claire accepts, not knowing who Doug really is, or what his true motivations are.

So, eventually, Doug and Claire do get involved in a romance, where they begin dating in earnest. Somehow, Claire senses that something’s not right and that she’s in way over her head. She decides to bail and then seek help and protection from FBI Special Agt. Adam Frawley, who’s been assigned to bring Doug MacRay and his guys to justice. Claire’s fears and suspicions are confirmed when Frawley shows her the picture of Doug, who turns out to be one of the guys who robbed Claire’s bank and abducted her at gunpoint. Claire agrees to help catch Doug MacRay, who not only comes from a family of bank robbers, but has a pretty extensive criminal record himself, including having served a 20 month jail sentence for aggrevated assault.

FBI Agt. Frawley and Claire sit down and discuss what kind of strategies should be taken. At length, it’s planned for Claire to invite Doug over for an early dinner, and Frawley and the Feds, the Staties and local cops/crime fighters, as well as Claire’s lawyer would also be there, but it wouldn’t be obvious to Doug, since Frawley and his men have lots of skill at hiding out and surprising their target at inopportune moments..

Meanwhile, Doug has no idea what’s happening (since Claire’s decided to go anonymous with her contact with Adam Frawley, and continues to try to court her anyhow. During the last robbery performed by Doug and his men, at Fenway Park, a shoot-out erupts between the cops, the Feds and Doug MacRay and his men, thanks to the fact that Jem’s drugged out sister, Krista, who has a 2-year-old daughter, who has ratted them out, partially in anger at Doug’s having spurned her for Claire, and partly through fear of losing her child.

. Three of his men are killed in the shoot-out, but Doug miraculously survives, by hiding out in a more remote, much darker part of the inside of Fenway Park’s stadium. Doug MacRay calls Claire and asks her to come away to Florida with him, and that he should wait for her in her Charlestown condominium. He then hides the money from the Fenway Park heist (about 3 million dollars), for Claire, with a note that tells her to do whatever she wants with it.

Claire tells Doug that she must think about the idea of going to Florida with him a little bit first. Doug says okay. In the meantime, Agt. Frawley and Claire discuss a date for their strategy, setting it for a week later. It just so happens that on that date, Doug, thinking that “Fergie” and Rusty might go after Claire and kill her, decides to go back to C-Town, and guns Rusty and Fergie down in their own flower shop. He then phones Claire and tells her he’ll pick her up so they can elope to Florida together. Claire murmurs something in agreement. It so happens that this is the very date that Claire and Frawley have set for their strategy. Claire agrees to wait for Doug at her condo, and invites Doug over to her condominium for a meal, which Doug accepts, and he goes over to Claire’s at the appointed time.

Claire has cooked a scrumptious meal for both her and Doug (which she has secretly prepared in advance), which they both enjoy, with much relish. They eat, talk, and romance each other, and Doug has no idea what’s coming. Just as Doug and Claire are saying goodbye to each other and embracing for the last time, Frawley and his men, who’ve been hiding out the back part of Claire’s condominium, take them both by surprise. Doug MacRay is handcuffed, arrested, put on trial, and sent to serve some long, hard time in a Federal penitentiary for his crimes; a 30-year jail sentence.

After Doug has been sent to prison, Claire goes to her garden, retrieves Doug’s ill-gotten (albeit stolen) money, and reads a brief note that he has enclosed for her, saying that she should take the money and do as she wishes with it, that he has a long road, and that he’d “see her again, this side or the other”. Claire, who has smartened up by now, realizes that she and Doug never will see each other again…not on this side, anyway. She then takes the money to Agt. Frawley, who advises her to turn it into the authorities, anonymously, which she does. Not long afterwards, Claire lands a prestigious job at another bank, acquires enough money to move to a swankier condominium in the Back Bay, and moves there, realizing, with a clear conscience, that she did the right thing by having done sort of a “sting” operation to successfully catch Doug, rather than continue to have contact with him and to be an accessory to his crimes, and risk her whole future.

mplo June 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Here’s a question for everybody here:

What do you all think that Doug MacRay and his posse of armed thieves would’ve done with a woman who was

a) not so angelic-looking as Claire

b) had autism, aspergers, ADD/ADHD, was mentally retarded, or had a seizure disorder.

c) was a little bit tougher than Claire?

I’m just curious. I’d love some feedback on this.

kev June 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

The movie was a beat by beat ripoff of Set It Off. Lame.

mplo June 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

I never saw the film “Set It Off”, but I did see some other heist movies, such as “Friends of Eddie Coyle” and “Point Break”, which Ben Affleck also ripped off in order to film “The Town”. It’s agreed—“The Town” really was rather lame.

I really dislike the message that “The Town” conveys to me, personally; that as long as people can get away with stuff, anything goes, even though innocent people are terrorized, seriously injured and traumatized as a result of those actions and behavior (which Doug MacRay and his men exhibited and acted out.), to be an accessory to a criminal and his exploits (which Claire did with Doug MacRay), just because they’re madly in love with him, and to spend stolen blood money on the renovation of a hockey rink for the kids in the community, instead of going about more honest ways to obtain the funding for the rink.

verdilac August 6, 2013 at 7:07 am

Allan. I couldn’t agree with you more. I was profoundly unmoved for exactly the reasons you stated

mplo June 6, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Another Alternative Version of The Town; How I would’ve written it:

The Town starts out the exact same way as the original film/story, with Claire, the good-looking bank manager, being forced to open the vault and hand over the money at gunpoint by Doug MacRay and his men while they were wearing skull masks and ninja outfits, the assistant manager gets butt-rifled to death by Jem, Claire is taken hostage, blindfolded, abducted and then let go, she and Doug meet “by chance’ in a laundromat, they begin dating, etc.

In addition to being interested in gardening, Claire also owns a beautiful pet Moluccan cockatoo named Rhumbi, who’s very affectionate, and yet protective of her territory, as well as her owner. Claire has a way of carrying Rhumbi on her shoulder, on a harness, on sunny days, so when Claire and Doug are out on a lunch date at the Pizzeria, Claire has Rhumbi, who is very tame, harnessed, on her shoulder. Doug admires and pats Rhumbi, with no ill affects–Rhumbi the cockatoo has taken to Doug immediately. As in the original story, Claire, at one point, disappears for afew minutes, with Rhumbi, inside, to use the bathroom and freshen up. As in the original story, she comes back and finds “Jem” sitting in her seat, they make brief introductions, but, then, suddenly… Ohhhhhh! Disaster strikes! As Jem puts his hand out to pat Rhumbi , he receives a hard bite from the cockatoo–hard enough to take part of his index finger off! Enraged, bleeding, and somewhat disoriented, Jem doesn’t know what to do, but somebody else eating outside the pizzeria calls an ambulance, stems the bleeding with a small tourniquet, and then wraps Jem’s avulsed finger in a damp cloth to keep it moist. Jem is rushed to the MGH emergency room, where his avulsed finger is re-attached by a surgeon on call. Hours later, Jem arrives from the MGH emergency room, with his injured finger in a bulky bandage, and his arm in a sling.

Fast forward to the planning of the next heist: Jem, who has to sit out the next heist that Doug and his men have planned, is totally enraged, which is obvious to Doug and his other gang. Word has quickly spread around Charlestown about Jem having had his finger bitten off by Claire’s pet Moluccan cockatoo, and almost everybody in C-Town has gotten to know about it. Back in Jem’s apartment (Doug lives above Jem, in the same house.), Doug and Jem talk about their next heist, as usual. Jem is enraged about the fact that he has to sit this heist out. Despite Doug’s telling Jem to smarten up, calm down and not make a big deal out of what has just happened to him, Jem is still quite furious, and his out-of-control rage keeps building.

That night, back at Old Sully’s bar, which is their favorite watering hole, Doug (who has sworn off alcohol and drinks only cranberry juice), Jem, Gloansy and Dez are sitting at a small table, having their usual drinks. Jem’s rage is so obvious that his friends are sitting there guffawing and giggling at him and making rather macabre jokes about Jem’s misfortune and his reaction to it, and everybody else in the bar, including the owner, and Doug’s ex-girlfriend, Krista and her friends, join in the laughter and the raw jokes, which enrages Jem all the more.

Totally enraged at being the laughing stock of the bar and the butt of everybody’s jokes, as well as his injury that he’d received from Claire’s pet cockatoo, Jem tries to start a fight with Doug, then Gloansy and then, the owner of the bar himself. Prevented from doing so, Jem goes on a rampage and trashes the bar, really busting up the joint and doing as much damage as possible with his good hand, and his feet. The bar is a mess, with broken glass, overturned tables, and splintered chairs all over the place. Jem has even kicked the bar’s door in, and kicked a big hole in the counter, due to his fury at being the butt of ribald jokes and laughter. Then, the unthinkable happens; one of the regular local patrons of Old Sully’s bar calls the police!

Since the police are able to tie Jem with Doug, Gloansy and Dez a number of bank/armored car robberies in the area, including the heist at Claire Keesey’s bank, due to Doug’s gang’s identities being known all over town, and despite their being skillful at destroying evidence by bleaching up their crime scenes to kill all the DNA and clothing fibers, and by torching the getaway and switch vans, they are easily able to get by all that, as well as Charlestown’s Code of Silence, the police arrest Doug and his friends with ease as soon as they arrive at the scene, immediately handcuff all of them, take them to the station house down town, fingerprint them, and book them. FBi Agts. Adam Frawley and Dino Ciampa, who’ve been assigned to bring Doug and his men to their knees and stop their crime spree once and for all, are waiting at the station house for Doug and his men, where Doug and his men, under questioning, and with much reluctance, confess to all the crimes they’ve committed.

By going on a rampage and trashing Old Sully’s Bar back in Charlestown, Jem has backed himself and his gang into such a tight corner that he, Doug, Gloansy and Dez have no choice but to confess to their crimes, go on trial, and face prison sentences for the crimes that they’ve committed. Jem’s fury is still quite high and out of control, but Doug pointedly reminds Jem that he has no choice but to take his punishment along with the others. Jem then goes into a sullen torpor.

Shortly after the arrest and confessions of Doug and his men at the station house, Claire, who’s been involved romantically with Doug and is unaware of who he is and what he is up to, reads about the arrest and confessions of Doug and his men of their crimes in the paper. When she sees Doug and Jem’s photos, she immediately recognizes Doug and Jem, who turn out to be part of the gang that robbed her bank at gunpoint, took her as a hostage, blindfolded and abducted her. Shocked and angry that Doug had not only committed such crimes, but had tricked her into believing that he was a normal, law-abiding, upstanding and decent citizen, when he was a professional criminal with a long record and who’d committed a string of violent crimes, Claire wisely decides to drop all association with Doug at once, rather than risk her entire future with somebody who’s not only a career criminal who had committed a string of violent crimes (i. e. armed robbery, and aggrevated assault), but who’s also the son of a jailbird (Doug’s father, who’s permanently incarcerated due to armed robbery and murder), to boot. Claire immediately seeks out FBI Agt. Frawley’s protection, advice and counseling.

After being tried and charged with their crimes (a long trial), Doug and his men are sentenced to a long, hard term at a Federal penitentiary. Jem, however, is sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for two murders; Having murdered another person a number of years before, and for the murder of Claire’s assistant bank manager, as well as for the armed robberies/kidnapping that he, Doug and the other men have committed.

Meanwhile Claire gets a job as a manager at another bank, puts her Charlestown condo on the market, where it sells rather quickly, and eventually moves to a swankier condominium in the Back Bay with her pet Moluccan cockatoo, Rhumbi. She is more than happy to put everything that has happened behind her and go on with her life.

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