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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Town

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Set in the insular Irish-American underworld of Charlestown, Mass. -- the bank-robbery plagued burg of the title—and adapted from Chuck Hogan's 2004 novel "Prince of Thieves," this is the story of failed pro hockey player-turned-thief Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck).

Despite a seriously intended and morally weighty script, director and co-writer (with Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard), Affleck's seamy heist drama "The Town" (Warner Bros.) fails to clear that hurdle, burdened as it is by excessive violence, gritty—though fleeting—sexuality and consistently foul-mouthed dialogue.

As demonstrated during the caper portrayed in the opening scenes, Doug is by far the most humane member of a so-far successful gang of careful and pitiless thieves who target the area's armored trucks as well as its bank vaults.

Doug's friend since childhood and cohort in crime, Jem (Jeremy Renner), by contrast, seems to enjoy violence for its own sake. A dangerous loose cannon, Jem beats one counting-house employee bloody with the butt of his gun before taking manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) as an impromptu hostage during the team's escape. Fearing that Claire, whom they quickly release, may be able to identify them, despite their disguises, the crew assigns Doug the task of stalking her.

Instead, the unwitting Claire strikes up a conversation that eventually leads to romance with her erstwhile captor. But the genuinely smitten Doug's hopes for a return to decency and a future life with his new love are hampered by the relentless pursuit of FBI agent Frawley (Jon Hamm)—whose intense focus on bagging the bad guys makes him less than scrupulous about observing the law—and by the machinations of ruthless local crime boss Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite).

Along the way to the subsequent hold-up that sees his squad don those jarring nun costumes, Doug beds Claire after what they both seem to consider a decent interval. Though their encounter is relatively discreet, an earlier scene of purely animalistic relations between Doug and Jem's drug-addled, slatternly sister Krista (Blake Lively), though not prolonged, is distastefully explicit.

The film contains considerable gunplay and some bloody beatings, brief graphic nonmarital sexual activity, glimpses of upper female and partial nudity, pervasive rough and crude language and irreverent imagery. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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