(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Please note: This essay is cross-posted from firefly-dreaming.com.
As everybody knows, I wrote about the movie The Town, which is based on Chuck Hogan’s thriller novel, Prince of Thieves earlier here on firefly. There are important differences between the movie and the book on which it is based, and, as I also pointed out, I felt that the book was a great deal better than the film, although I never elaborated on any of the reasons why.
Both The Town and Prince of Thieves, the book on which The Town was based, are about four close buddies who’re lifelong residents of Boston’s tough white working class Charlestown section, which was known for its vicious longtime Code of Silence, when people would snitch to the cops only at their own peril. However, this Code of Silence was eventually reduced, if not broken, by an ordinary Townie woman whose two sons had been killed in gangland-style slayings, who came forward and talked, inspiring other Townie people to do likewise. It was then that a program called CHAMP (Charlestown after Murders Program) was founded, and many people from Charlestown united with people from Roxbury and North Dorchester and found common cause with parents in those particular areas who’d also lost their children to the pervasive violence of their neighborhood streets. My interest was sort of re-honed, because there was recently an obituary of the Townie woman (66 years old), who’d founded the Charlestown after murders program, in our most prominent local newspaper, the Boston Globe.
The four men, Doug MacRay, James (“Jem”) Caughlin, Albert (Gloansy) Magloan, and Desmond (“Dez”) Elden, were professional bank and armored car robbers who’d always prided themselves on getting what they wanted and coming away clean. On one particular heist, however, things went wrong, Claire Keesey, an attractive bank manager was blindfolded and briefly taken hostage after being forced at gunpoint to open the safe when the four men, all wearing ninja outfits and Hallowe’en masks, entered the bank to rob it, and David Bearns, an assistant bank manager, was beaten with the butt of a rifle and seriously injured within inches of his life, by one of the robbers just before they poured bleach all over the place to destroy any evidence and make it difficult for the FBI and cops to trail them.
Both the movie and the book were fiction, although they were based on certain facts; a disproportionate percentage of bank robbers did, for some reason, hail from Charlestown, and because there was a notorious Code of Silence in the area. Since “Jem” had an extremely short fuse and was emotionally very unstable, and out of fear that he would harm or possibly “off” Claire whether she knew anything or not, especially because she was a yuppie “Toonie’ Charlestown resident, Doug decided to take charge of the situation, if only to keep the hot, hair-trigger-tempered “Jem” in check, and to trail Claire himself to see what she knew or saw. After spending time with and talking to Claire, Doug discovers that he’s attracted to her and falls in love, and Claire falls in love with him, as well, when they meet in a Charlestown laundermat and Claire breaks down and cries at the memory of the robbery of her bank, and her abduction by the four masked men only a couple of days before. Claire, of course, after meeting Doug, had no idea that he was one of the masked men who’d terrorized her and her co-workers at the bank that they’d robbed recently, and, Doug and Claire begin a romantic relationship.
Eventually, Doug discovers that he wants out of the criminal life altogether, and plans two more heists before hopefully eloping to Florida with Claire. When Claire is interviewed by the FBI right after the bank robbery and her abduction, however, the FBI suspects that Claire knows more than she’s letting on, especially because she fabricates a story about dating a Townie piano mover, and because the FBI has learned about her and Doug’s relationship through a recorded phone conversation, and considers Claire an accomplice to Doug’s criminal behavior. On one of their first dates, when Claire asks Doug about his family and if they still live in Charlestown, Doug omits information about his father being in prison, and the fact that his mother committed suicide due, at least in part, to her addiction to drugs thanks to Charlestown’s crime boss, Fergie (Colm) the Florist, who runs a flower shop in the Town.
Claire is shocked toi learn that Doug MacRay, the guy she’s been dating, is one of the suspects in the recent heist of the bank where she works, but continues her romantic relationship with him anyway. There is much disapproval of his and Claire’s relationship by Doug’s partners in crime, especially from “Jem”, and Doug visits his father, who’s serving time in prison for bank robbery and murder, to tell him that he’s thinking about changing his life around and taking a trip. Eventually, Claire and the FBI hole up in her Charlestown Condominium, and Doug, who has asked Claire to come away with him, plans on coming by. When he watches Claire from his uncle’s apartment, however, things change somewhat. The FBI, along with Claire, are determined to trap him, but Claire changes her mind and gives Doug a code to stay away so he won’t be trapped and taken by the FBI, thereby helping him to elude the law and go free.
The FBI is hot on the trail of Doug and his men, determined to bring them down and halt their careers in robbery once and for all. After a heist in the North End which has gone wrong, resulting in the near-shooting death of a guard, Doug and his men are questioned by the FBi, and Doug is told that he’ll serve the rest of his life out in a federal penitentiary. The heist in Fenway Park, which results in the deaths of ‘Jem”, Dez and Gloansy, is the biggest heist yet, and, Doug hides a whole bunch of that money in a duffel bag, in Claire’s community garden, where she frequently spends her spare time, with a tangerine and a note saying that he’s leaving Boston, Charlestown, and everyone behind, that she should take the money, and that he’d “see her again, on this side or the other”.
After all is said and done, here’s my whole new intake on the movie and the book: I liked the book better, because it fleshes out all the characters much more, and Doug and Claire’s romance is much more fleshed out and realistic. The
book also takes a less sympathetic attitude towards Doug MacRay and his gang, as well. It’s a real page turner. I also might add that, in the book, they also rob a theatre out in Braintree, as well. Eventually, when “Fergie” the Florist threatens to harm Claire, Doug eventually gets revenge, goes into the Flower Shop, and guns down both “Fergie” and his bodyguard, “Rusty”.
In my opinion, a crime is a crime, and stealing money from people is completely and totally wrong, regardless of what somebody’s position in life is. However, I also think that Claire was rather stupid to continue her relationship with Doug after finding out the truth about him, and to fabricate a story to the FBI about dating a Townie piano mover. As someone recently said; one can lie to their friends, neighbors, etc., but they can’t lie to the Feds. The fact that Claire also helped Doug elude the law after his criminal behaviors, which not only included robbing banks and armored cars but shooting to injure innocent people, instead of allowing the FBI to do their job and force Doug to serve out a prison sentence also indicates the kind of person that Claire really and truly is. So does the fact that she kept the “dirty” money that Doug left her, and spent it on the renovation of a local hockey rink, which she dedicated to her criminal boyfriend’s mother, who she never even knew. The book and the movie end way differently; in the movie, Doug dons an MBTA uniform from his uncle’s apartment, goes to the train station and hops a train to Florida, where he is finally seen in a boathouse, overlooking a lake, supposedly a free man. However, since the FBi is a national organization, it’s pointed out to Claire that Doug will be caught and made to serve justice no matter where he is.
I have to admit to one thing, however; even though both the book and the movie are fiction, I become less sympathetic with Claire as they both go on. I was sympathetic with Claire at first, because she was forced to open the safe at gunpoint by Doug and his gang, who wore horrible masks and pointed large rifles at her and her co-workers and who took her hostage, and she was extremely traumatized by the whole event, enough so that she ultimately quit her job as bank manager. However, it becomes clear to me that, imho, Claire had allowed Doug to take advantage of her during an extremely vulnerable moment, and it ultimately backfired on her in the end.
In the book, however, all four of the thieves, including Doug, end up being gunned down by the cops, and Doug comes to Claire’s Charlestown condominium to die. In either case, Claire has proven to not be as classy as she comes off in the beginning, since she had essentially abetted Doug in his criminal behaviors. So, for some wierd reason, I have less respect for her than I have for Doug’s former girlfriend, the drugged-out, drunken Krista Caughlin, a Townie prostitute and the sister of the hot-tempered “Jem”, who rats her brother, Doug and the other gang members to the FBI, at least in part, as a retaliation for Doug’s dumping her for Claire, and in part due to the fact that she was threatened with the loss of her 14-month old daughter, Shyne, if she didn’t cooperate.
Even though this book and movie are fiction, I think that if I were in the latter situation and was threatened with the loss of a child by not cooperating with the FBI, I’d definitely cooperate also. Doug and his band didn’t deserve to die for what had happened, but they should’ve served out time in prison, especially “Jem”, who was also a cop-killer. Had Claire not lied to the feds, and not helped Doug evade the law, things would’ve invariably turned out differently.