I've decided to write a somewhat different kind of an essay at this point; the pointing out of both the differences and similarities between two very different movies; one made over 50 years ago (our beloved West Side Story), and Ben Affleck's 3 y/o movie, The Town, which is based on Chuck Hogan's novel, The Prince of Thieves (renamed The Town).
Although I have to admit one thing, I'll start out with what I see is a very important difference between West Side Story and The Town.
West Side Story is a wonderful old classic film, beautifully choreographed, photographed, with a beautifully brilliant musical score by Leonard Bernstein, and a beautiful story behind it, about two warring street gangs (i. e. the White ethnic American Jets, and the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks) on the streets of 1950's/1960's West Side of Manhattan, and a love and romance that grows and develops amid the conflict. Tony, the ex-leader/founder of the Jets, meets and falls in love with Maria, the sister of the Shark gang leader, Bernardo, much to her brother's chagrin, anger and distress, as well as his fiery girlfriend, Anita, who is Maria's friend and confidente. Unfortunately, due to the extremely hatred and hostility between the gangs, and the jealousy of Chino, who's Bernarndo's righthand man, also of the Sharks, Tony and Maria's romance is destroyed by the resulting showdown (i. e. the ultimate rumble and deaths of Riff (the Jets leader), Bernardo, and Tony. Ice, who takes over the Jets leadership after Riff's death at the rumble, advises the Jets to keep cool, after both gangs have fled the police and gone into hiding.
The deaths of Riff, Bernardo and Tony, as grisly as they are, have served as at least a fleeting moment of understanding and unity between the Jets and Sharks, after several members of each gang come together to carry Tony's body off.
The Town, on the other hand, (and I'm being harsh, but so be it), imho, is one of these films that's so bad that it's good. Inotherwords, it's a hyped-up piece of junk that's more like a feature-length, made-for-TV soap opera than a regular movie, with a cast that's mediocre at best. Yet, The Town has also led to much lively discussions, especially since it's quite popular with most moviegoers and movie critics alike, and anybody who differs in opinion of The Town is suspect. It's about 4 men from Boston's (formerly) white workingclass Charlestown section who are friends and rivals at the same time, who are into robbing banks and armored cars, are able to get what they want and come up clean, because they're extremely skillful at destroying evidence of their crimes by bleaching up their crime scenes and/or setting fire to the switch vans and get-away vans, so that, although the identities of Doug MacRay, Desmond Elden, Gloansy Magloan and "Jem" Coughlin (the four bank/armored car robbers in question) are known, the FBI and SWAT and the police are unable to get evidence and proof due to the skillfulness of Doug and his crew, as well as Charlestown's code of silence.
One day, as Doug and his men rob a bank, something goes wrong. Just as they've emptied out the bank after forcing Claire Keesey, the attractive female bank manager, to open the safe at gunpoint, she pulls the silent alarm, and, after her assistant manager is beaten nearly to death with the butt of an assault rifle by one of Doug's men, Claire is taken hostage by Doug and his men (who are wearing skull masks and black capes), dumped at a beach in South Boston, Ma, and then let go.
Doug begins following Claire, they meet "by chance" at a Charlestown laundromat, where Claire freaks out and begins to cry when she remembers the robbery and the beating of her assistant manager. FBI Agt. Frawley is assigned to bring Doug MacRay and his men down and pursues them relentlessly. Doug makes afew stupid jokes to amuse Claire, asks her out for a drink, and they begin a relationship, which, while he's attracted to Claire, is also an extremely exploitive relationship that's based on lies, deception, withholding and secrecy.
Claire, unfortunately, doesn't figure out who Doug is, despite the red flags all around her. Doug schpiels off to Claire about what he knows about how the criminal justice system supposedly works, and the "not really. I watch a lot of TV" response to Claire's "you're quite the expert" challenge to Doug. Those hints, the questions Doug asks her, and the fact that Doug purchases an expensive Tiffany diamond necklace (most likely with dirty money--I mean it's hard to believe that a white workingclass Charlestown Townie would make the kind of money that would enable him to afford a woman in his life that kind of gift.), imho, really should've been hints to Claire about who Doug MacRay was and what he was really up to. Imho, a smarter, more streetwise woman than Claire, imho, would've pegged Doug almost immediately, bailed, and gone to the Feds for help.
Claire finally learns that Doug is one of the guys who robbed her bank at gunpoint and abducted her, courtesy of FBI Agt. Adam Frawley, and has a complete breakdown, kicking Doug out of her apartment when he calls on her again. Fergie the Florist, who's the crime boss of Doug and his buddies, threatens to injure or kill Claire (the way Jem wanted to do, but was prevented from doing by Doug, who, imho, was acting out of a selfish motive; avoiding prison (all of his men had long criminal records.)
After the Feds are in Claire's C-town condo apartment and are on the verge arresting Doug MacRay, Claire tips off Doug to the Feds' presence in her house with a "sunny days" code, to warn Doug not to come over (after Jem's drugged-out, drunken sister, Krista, who muled for "Fergie" the Florist, and ratted out Doug and his friends to the Feds about the upcoming Fenway Park robbery, partly in retaliation for being spurned by Doug MacRay (Krista Coughlin was Doug's former girlfriend) for Claire Keesey, and partly due to being threatened with the loss of Krista's infant daughter, Shyne. Jem, Dez and Gloansy are all killed in the shoot-out in Fenway Park between them and the law, and Doug survives, by leaving a bag of stolen money for Claire, in her garden, to do what she wanted with, and then skipping town for Florida without Claire despite his presumed love for her, due to the fact that he was in trouble for his criminal record, and for killing Fergie and his henchman, Rusty, in their own flower shop.
The Town ends with Claire Keesey (she was so traumatized that she quit her job as a bank manager) sitting and watching the local Townie kids play hockey at a renovated hockey rink, which Claire has spent Doug's blood-stained loot money on.
The Town and West Side Story have certain similarities: They're both set in poor, tough, rough and rundown urban areas. In both instances, de-facto leaders and founders of gangs fall in love with women from "the wrong side of the tracks" so to speak. In both instances, the relationships and plans to elope are destroyed by things beyond their control.
Yet, here, imho, is where the similarities end, rather abruptly. The differences are that unlike The Town's Doug macRay and his men, the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story aren't into robbing banks and armored cars or taking people hostage to secure their getaway from the cops.
West Side Story's Maria, unlike The Town's Claire, isn't into accepting expensive gifts and dirty money from Tony, for he gives her no such things. Tony, Maria, and the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story, are very young men, either in their teens or early twenties, while The Town's Doug MacRay and his buddies in crime, as well as Claire and Krist, are well into adulthood, in their 30's, who should've known better, theoretically, are professional criminals (Doug and his men), and accessories (Claire and Krista), who should've known better, imho.
The characters in West Side Story, unlike the criminal characters in The Town, were much more honest, and, and while arrogant and/or naive, aren't into stealing money from innocent people and giving it to people to spend on things that they should've done themselves, instead of leading their criminal lifestyles.
I also believe that West Side Story and The Town both send very different messages:
West Side Story sends a doubled-edged message: The destructive consequences of racial/ethnic hatred and the resulting violence that all too frequently ensues, as well as the consequences of arrogance and hubris among people. Yet the ending in West Side Story also sends a message that reconciliation between people, as difficult as it can be, is possible.
Imho, The Town, on the other hand, sends a very different message; People don't have to be held accountable for their actions and behaviors, and that as long as people get what they want, that it's perfectly okay to terrorize, seriously injure, and kill innocent people who are earning an honest living or are trying to do their assigned jobs of bringing known violent felons to justice before the law. The Town also sends a message that it's okay to be an accessory to a person's violent crimes (which Claire became when she got into a relationship with Doug MacRay and was caught red-handed in that relationship with Doug when the Feds tapped her phone), that it's okay to make dupes out of law-enforcement people who are out to bring guys like Doug to justice (with a prison term), by tipping them off to the presence of the Feds and helping them become fugitives from the law (which Claire did with Doug, when she tipped Doug off to the presence of the Feds in her house when they were on the verge of nabbing him and sending him back to prison), helping him escape justice, and spending his stolen blood money on the hockey rink renovation.
It wasn't Claire's fault that Doug MacRay and his men robbed her bank at gunpoint, but the choices that Claire made afterwards, imho, put her in a very bad light, and she got off scot-free, instead of being punished, when, imho, Claire should've been either criminally prosecuted herself, or at least given a suspended sentence and some sort of probation for being an accessory to Doug MacRay's crimes, helping him becoming a fugitive from the law, and for receiving stolen goods. The fact that Claire didn't get some sort of punishment also sends a message that as long as one is a pretty, princess-like, sweet gal, she can be petted and praised as a good lass, no matter what she does.
The stereotypes of The Town, are also quite prominent; that everybody in Charlestown, MA is into the bank-armored car robbing business, the slobbering, slovenly Boston Red Sox fans, the cheap, skankish, drug-addicted women from C-Town, and the (supposedly pure of heart) princess-like bank manager of supposedly unattainable beauty who steals the heart of the de-facto leader of a bunch of local thieving, murderous thugs, and is a community angel in human form are all a turn off for me.
Unlike in West Side Story, the cinematography/scenes in The Town are often way over the top, the cinematography poor, and a mediocre cast, overdone, phony Boston accents, and the cartoon-like, one-dimensional quality of this movie, all make this film the piece of junk that it is. I'm sure that it got some of the aeriel shots of C-Town and Boston from West Side Story, but it's not at all the same.
Thanks for letting me ramble and rant, folks.