A Tale of Two Towns

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  September 29, 2009

If that's the case, then there's an argument that Hickey's and Hogan's stories fill in where McNamara left off — as do other Charlestown crime dramas, including the 1998 Ted Demme film Monument Ave with Denis Leary and last year's gangster-flick short Townies. Charlestown Against Drugs Chairman Peter Looney, who hardly endorses dangerous behavior, is especially anticipating Oxy-Morons, and even helped Hickey with municipal contacts in hopes that the film will spread an effective anti-opiate message. According to Partners HealthCare, the rate of substance-abuse-related hospitalizations among Charlestown residents has been at times more than twice the rate of Boston overall. Furthermore, the number of drug-related deaths among Charlestown residents during Hickey's heyday (between 1999 and 2002) was nearly 50 percent higher than the rest of the City of Boston as a whole (the number is now equal, with about 32 annual deaths per every 100,000 individuals).

"It will be good for kids from around here to see this," says Looney, who notes that drug abuse is hardly unique to the projects. "It's okay that not everything will be in a positive light. Charlestown is beyond a lot of other places when it comes to substance abuse in that we've finally come to accept that it's a serious issue. Some of these kids feel defeated — that even if they go through rehab they'll just get dried out and go back to using. [Oxy-Morons] could give them a different attitude. That needs to be the end result of all this hard work we've been doing here."

Like Hickey's, Hogan's story is rooted in a real slice of local history. According to the 1995 FBI statistic that inspired his novel, at one point there were more armored-car robbers traced to Charlestown than any other community in the United States. Affleck might not have a personal stake in how accurately he salutes the Town, but he seems to be concerned with the minutiae. Like in Gone Baby Gone, he tapped hardcore Bostonians — including Southie-Roslindale rapper Slaine — for important roles, and has consultants making sure that actors nail Townie traits that no one outside of Route 128 could ever discern (Rutherford Avenue, for example, is pronounced "Rootherford").

There appears to be even more common ground for filmmakers who admire and respect Townie tradition — whether Hickey with his Oxy tales, Affleck with his nostalgia piece, or McNamara with her documentary. The old Town, where residents could determine almost any child's last name by family resemblance, will soon be little more than a past phenomenon seen only on the big screen. As Doug MacRay tells his jailbird dad in Prince of Thieves: "Nobody even knows you anymore. A few old guys, sitting outside the Foodmaster — they might shake your hand. They might doff the cap. It's not like it was. The code is gone. The old ways, all of it. Gone."

Chris Faraone can be reached atcfaraone@phx.com.

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