Last year when I said The Town was my film of the year, I made an odd statement. I said that the Bluey, with a promised Directors Cut would probably be my film of 2011. It was tongue in cheek. I was sat there thinking, “he’ll only add in five minutes anyway”. “Cool it. You’ll always have the cinema version”. Then, when I realized I was thinking of my self in the third person, I realized things had gone too far.
Well he’s only gone and done it. Ben Affleck has added so much into The Town, that he’s pushed it from my film of 2010, to maybe teetering in my top ten of all time.
I love Heat. The theatrical cut of The Town suggests Ben Affleck does, too. The Directors Cut takes that to the nth degree, including a brilliant scene where Affleck is watching TV. With a jeep. And a bag of money on the dashboard. In a deserted car park. The sort you may snipe from. If you had a cool ponytail. I love nods like that. It could be any crime film, but I’m sure the nod is deliberate. I picture me watching it with Tarantino, and high fiving him, for trying to make the film world smaller.
But aren’t Directors/Extended/Unrated Cuts a cash cow? A second chance, most films are undeserving of?
Well, yes and no.
The very best Directors Cuts improve on their original, that is a given. Where they jump into a league of their own though, is when they totally change the tone, and direction of the story.
What Affleck has done here is to add character beats that make you face palm that they were ever cut. The sort of additions that make you question whether you’ll ever touch the Theatrical Cut again, as you’ll always allow the 25 minutes extra you need. Even if it makes you late for a wedding/funeral/winning lottery ticket.
Three bits really stood out for me.
There is a scene straight from Goodfellas. We get a montage on the gang laundering the dirty money, trying to get clean money back. They sell drugs, they go to the casino, they go to a strip club. It’s excellent. Especially the strip club.
Next is an extended scene. Affleck and his “brother” go to visit the gang members that have scared Claire. Not only do them give them the beating of their lives, Affleck now cracks one of their hands, and breaks a bottle, jabbing one in the back of the head with it. Now, I had told Mrs T that this wasn’t a violent film. And the reason this scene got the nod was she had to look away, and I winced a bit myself. We had one of those film moments where she was saying, “you knew that was coming… I’m not watching anymore”… And I was saying back, “There is no way we’re watching Step Up 3 again, Mrs T. No way. I’d rather shoot my self in the balls, Florist style!” She replied, “Well, if there are anymore strip clubs/bottles in peoples heads again, it’s Street Dance 3D or nothing”. That was the final straw, as you can imagine. So I shut my mouth, and prayed Ben calmed it down on iolenceway*
It’s justified because it shows what Affleck is willing to do for Claire, and also that he may be every bit as unhinged as Renner. When Renner then shoots the same guy in the leg three times, it’s almost to get one up on Affleck. “Hey, I’m meant to be the crazy one”. We trust Affleck less after that.
Lastly, and perhaps my favorite. Affleck, alone in a disused train. He cracks a tablet and snorts it, then discharging his gun at the other end of the train, Point Break/Hot Fuzz style. Brilliant. So much so that I was fascinated that Affleck managed to change a characters back-story so much.
In the cinema, I had wondered why he was part of the group. He seemed moralistic. Now, with all of those additions, he feels far more part of the team – and it makes his struggle to escape that life even more desperate.
There is plenty more from the FBIs point of view, too – which was definitely something I highlighted as an issue when watching it at the flicks. It only serves to increase the Heat comparisons – but the more I see this film, the more I think that’s justified. I don’t say that lightly. Heat is in my top three of all time. So is Goodfellas, and as I’ve mentioned, this film is a love letter to both.
I’ve just read that Affleck’s original cut was 4 hours long. If he ever releases that I’m not sure what I would do. This version opens that up. You can honestly see that another hour of character beats are sat there, waiting to be dropped back in.
The original ending intrigues me, too. The final shot bothered a lot of people that I know loved the film. I’d love to see it play out with the books ending. (I don’t read, but that book may be the first I bother to read since American Pyscho).
I love Directors Cuts. Always have. Whether they are better or not, they are fascinating. Exorcist: The Beginning. Dances With Wolves. The Abyss. (And anything by Cameron, to be fair – the DC of Avatar should be cannon).
The Town now joins that elite for me. It is a towering achievement. It’s great to see Renner get a nod from the archaic Academy, and part of me wants him to nick it from Bale. If only so they can get the film re-released with that emblazoned on the poster. Because you didn’t see The Town, did you? Not many bothered. I can’t remember what was out at the same time, but it came and went. I don’t know what I can do to convince you, but I’ll happily apologise to anyone that doesn’t take anything from the film.
Give it ten years and people will be saying this is a classic. I’ll be sat there still drooling at the prospect of the 4-hour cut.
*Violence in back slang.