The Town | 2010
An adaptation of the Chuck Hogan’s heist novel Prince of Thieves, the town in question is Charlestown, on a peninsula between the Charles River and the Mystic River north of downtown Boston. Once infamous for its Irish Mob associations, the neighbourhood has been, like so many, thoroughly gentrified in the last couple of decades.
As the film’s prologue claims, Charlestown has “produced more bank robberies and armored car thieves than anywhere in the world”.
The opening shot sets the scene with a view of Monument Square and Charlestown’s most prominent landmark, the 220-feet granite Bunker Hill Monument, erected to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill, the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution fought on June 17, 1775 – although it’s actually on Breed’s Hill.
If you can manage the 294 steps (there’s no elevator), there are terrific views from the pinnacle. The granite for the monument, by the way, came from the Quincy Quarries, a location featured in Affleck’s first feature film as director, Gone Baby Gone.
And it’s straight into the robbery of the ‘Cambridge Merchants Bank’ by a clearly skilled gang, hiding behind sinister skull masks. The robbery is not Charlestown but in Cambridge, home of Harvard University.
The exterior is clearly Cambridge Savings Bank 1374 Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square, alongside the Harvard Red Line subway stop. This would be a difficult bank to close while filming the complex robbery sequence, so the interior is that of the East Boston Savings Bank, 198 Main Street in the town of Melrose, out of town a few miles to the north of Boston.
The gang, lead by Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and Jem (Jeremy Renner), takes hostage the branch manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), eventually releasing her shaken up but unharmed, and leave their burned-out van abandoned on Medford Street, by Barry Playground, in northern Charlestown beneath the vast Tobin Memorial Bridge.
The gang gets away from home territory for a spot of r&r, and to ‘clean’ the proceeds of the robbery, at Mohegan Sun Casino, 1 Mohegan Sun Boulevard, Uncasville, about 80 miles southwest, over the border in Connecticut.
But this is a brief detour and it’s straight back to Boston and the real Charlestown.
The extremely classy townhouse of Claire, the bank manager, is 15 Monument Square on the corner of Lexington Street, beneath the Monument. With the gang getting a bit concerned about how much the ex-hostage knows, it’s here that Doug begins to keep tabs on her.
Despite having such a lovely home, Claire seems not to own a washing machine, and takes her laundry to the local laundromat.
Just a block north of the house, in the Monument Laundry Center, 142 Bunker Hill Street, Doug is able to contrive an ‘accidental’ meeting. The building is still recognisable but it's now – surprisingly – a school.
Not realising her charming new friend is part of the gang that abducted her, Claire is soon whisked off to a rather nice seafood restaurant in Boston’s North End. Over oysters, Doug explains to her that ‘Toonies’ is the local nickname for out-of-towners who moved into the area. If you want to sample the speciality lobster roll, it’s Neptune Oyster, 63 Salem Street, near North End Park. Get there early, the popular eaterie can get quite busy.
It’s over a more modest coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, 127 Tremont Street, by Park Street Red Line Station at Boston Common, that Claire unwittingly puts herself at risk by letting slip to Doug that she noticed a distinctive tattoo on the neck of one of the gang. It's another place that's closed down.
Another date, another restaurant. Just around the corner from Claire’s bank in Cambridge, Doug endures a few uncomfortable minutes as Jem turns up sporting his incriminating tattoo at the terrace of Grendel’s Den, 89 Winthrop Street on the tiny green square of Winthrop Park. Not surprisingly, the bar is a favourite of the university crowd.
Back on home territory, the local bar of Doug and Jem was Old Sully’s, 56 Union Street at Lynde Street, which stood near the Community College Station Orange Line T stop in south Charlestown. A friendly Irish dive bar which had a history dating back to the days of Prohibition, it's since closed and been redeveloped as housing.
Doug visits his dad (Chris Cooper) in Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction, 2405 Main Street, in Walpole, about 20 miles southwest of Boston. It’s the first film to shoot inside the high-security facility, which is, incidentally, where Albert DeSalvo – then believed to be the ‘Boston Strangler’ – was incarcerated.
The next target, the ‘First Boston Savings Bank’, is not a bank at all. Oddly, it’s another launderette, A New Spin Laundry, 100 Salem Street at Parmenter Street, a block north of Neptune Oyster. It certainly does look like a bank, but pop in and you’ll find there are large screen televisions and free wifi to distract you while your undies roll around in the soapy water – this must be the future of laundry.
After the robbery, the oddly theatrical gang (this time disguised as a bunch of creepy nuns) takes off for a wild car chase through the narrow streets of the North End. It’s on North Margin Street at Thacher Street that they’re temporarily cornered by the cops and resort to a shoot-out, before abandoning and torching their the getaway vehicle on Foster Street at Commercial Street.
The deceptively harmless front for scary crime boss Fergus 'Fergie' Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), although called ‘Town Flowers’ in the movie, can be seen not in Charlestown but in South Boston. There was no deception about the business, though. You really could have bought that special bunch of blooms at Thornton Flower Shop, 111 Dorchester Street, at Silver Street. But no more, it's now a hardware store.
The final big job involves taking down the legendary home of the Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way. Director Affleck and pal Matt Damon were once extras here during the filming of Field Of Dreams – and it’s probably not giving too much away to reveal that an assault on the much-loved ‘Cathedral of Boston’ is not going to end in a good way.