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Gone Baby Gone

As an ambitious, if somewhat imperfect, first-time effort from actor-turned-director Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone should haunt you long after the credits roll.


Adapted from a story by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, Gone Baby Gone refers to the disappearance of children. It's a grim story, though one of redemption, and is quite intricate. The story follows a pair of Boston private detectives, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), as they go looking for a local 4-year-old girl who has been abducted. Patrick and Angie are hired by the family to help the police find her—before it's too late. There's also brooding detective Remy (Ed Harris) and inveterate police captain Doyle (Morgan Freeman), who don't take kindly to the P.I.s meddling. But it seems the girl's drug-addicted mother Helene (Amy Ryan) has inadvertently put her daughter in some serious danger. Numerous shady characters burrow up to lend guidance and a nasty environment, putting a face on Boston's criminal underbelly. But Patrick is determined to find this little girl—and when a money-drop for the kidnapped tot goes awry, he won't let it go. And that is his downfall.


Casey Affleck gives a truly memorable performance. His calm demeanor almost shocks at times when it seems his feathers should presumably be more ruffled. He speaks in even tones, without emotion, even as a hardened street detective with community roots. Casey's ease conveys naturalism but is possibly too light to carry the movie's intrigue and heaviness. Michelle Monaghan delivers a pivotal, sobering turn as Casey's partner and girlfriend, after playing sweet with Ben Stiller in The Heartbreak Kid. Her Angie is a co-equal who adds ideas and emotional balance. Amy Ryan, a Tony-winning stage actress, is a fun mess as Helene, stuck in a nasty substance abuse pattern. Helene is so unlikeable, in fact, even the criminals think she doesn't deserve her daughter. Ed Harris adds another intense role to his resume as a flawed detective who we don't completely trust, invoking the same rage he displayed in his shivering turn in A History of Violence. Morgan Freeman's movie career built on dignified, wise roles is subverted here—and he plays it pitch perfect. And John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop's Detective Taggert) does a nice turn as Remy's hardened partner.


As a first-time director, Ben Affleck does an admirable job. Much of Gone Baby Gone's charm comes from the director's ties to his hometown. He captures a certain vibe from Boston's seedy side, much like The Departed did. The Dorchester neighborhood setting adds to the blue-collar grit, sometimes seeming oddly aloof and plastic. Moody scenes move quickly, almost too confidently. It flits around kinetically during some action sequences but then lapses into old-school dreariness, creating a weird music-video pace, including a Silence of the Lambs-like psychedelic murder sequence. But it's the script, co-written by Ben, that really gets you. Gone Baby Gone fixates on some underwhelming dialogue (mostly involving Casey Affleck)--but then the film really packs a one-two punch at the end. It will leave you reeling. Ben may have finally found his niche.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.