Film Reviews


By • Oct 19th, 2007 •

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A terrific morally-challenged crime tale aptly directed by Ben Affleck.

Director and co-screenwriter (with Aaron Stockard) Ben Affleck certainly knows his way around the underbelly of Boston. These people are still living through The Great Depression. I was terrified. Clearly using the locals as scenic background, everybody is morbidly obese (not that there is anything wrong with that) and living in apocalyptic ruins.

Affleck shows a genuine feel for directing – he keeps out of the way, doesn’t do anything fancy to cause attention to himself, allows the actors to express themselves, and has delivered a fine, emotionally-driven crime story.

Granted, Affleck has terrific source material. GONE, BABY, GONE is adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane who wrote “Mystic River.” It has the same feel of Boston riddled with a sense of resigned doom.

Ben, stay in front of the computer keyboard and behind the camera. Directing may not bring out the paparazzi following you into Starbuck’s or get you on the cover of GQ again, but you will be respected for something less fleeting and arbitrary than movie stardom.

Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) find missing persons. When 4 year old Amanda goes missing, the girl’s aunt, Beatrice McCready (Amy Madigan), and her husband Lionel (Titus Welliver)comes to them to ask for their help. Patrick is well-known in the neighborhood and she thinks this will help the investigation. Someone knows something and no one is talking to the police.

Amanda’s mother Helene (Amy Ryan) is a piece of work: she is a drug mule, coke and heroin user, lousy housekeeper, and a bad mother. Patrick and Angie agree to assist the police only to find out they have stepped into a world of Haitian crime lords, pedophiles, crack addicts, and evidence-planting cops.

Patrick and Angie are like two teen crime fighters dropped into a den of lions. Patrick takes a lot of humiliation for his clean-cut look and impassive face devoid of any hard living. The thugs duly notice. What is he doing without an apple martini in his hand?

Finding Amanda brings Patrick and Angie into the police investigation headed by Detective Remy Broussard (Ed Harris)and his partner Detective O’Malley (Robert Wahlberg). Highly decorated chief of police Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) has his own personal reason for wanting to find Amanda. While all the supporting characters are terrific, I especially liked (but could find no credit listing on Helene’s trashy neighbor who is outstanding as the personification of what Affleck wants to say about this world.

Affleck directs with a sure hand, allowing Freeman, Harris and Madigan to do what they do best – make a strong impression. He gives them their scenes. Affleck has a harder time with Casey. His face rarely moves. It’s sweet to give a family member a starring role, but as written and directed, this character should have been played by someone with the emotional depth of an actor like Ryan Gosling.

The screenplay twists and turns with an unusual outcome. I did find a moral flaw in Patrick’s final action; however, the viewer is left to decide. I had a much better comeback for Jack Doyle, but then Patrick would have had to slink away defeated. I like moral ambiguity since nobody ever says ‘I killed because I felt like doing something evil.’

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