October 20, 2007

REVIEW: Gone Baby Gone (B+)

Background: In addition to being Ben Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone has received a lot of buzz for portraying "authentic" Boston since it was filmed on location and features a number of extras who were just picked up off the street during filming. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (author of "Mystic River"), Gone Baby Gone stars Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James...), Michelle Monaghan (North Country), Ed Harris (Pollock, Apollo 13), and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption). See if you can differentiate the real Boston accents from the fake ones - I bet Amy Ryan fools you. Also, watch for Boston rapper Slaine in a shamefully likable role as Affleck's drug dealer buddy.

Synopsis: When 4 year-old Amanda McCready goes missing in South Boston, her aunt (Amy Madigan from Uncle Buck) hires private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Monaghan) to talk to the people who don't talk to the police. Kenzie and Gennaro, along with help from Boston police (Harris & Freeman) work their way through the tough neighborhood before eventually accusing Amanda's mother, Helene (Ryan), of mixing Amanda up in a drug deal. In the ensuing search for Amanda, Kenzie has harsh words for everyone he meets, and a number of people are killed, including Amanda. Soon, Kenzie begins to suspect a larger conspiracy that the police are trying to cover up, and he is left to decide how far he wants to go in discovering the truth about Amanda's disappearance.

I Loved:
+ That there were genuine moments of suspense - the drug house, the first bar scene, and the quarry.
+ That the final dilemma is left unresolved on the screen and in your mind.
+ That Ben Affleck wasn't in it.

I Liked:
+ That the Boston accents were authentic, and not forced when they weren't natural (Morgan Freeman).
+ That there were few stereotypical Boston references - Red Sox game, "Hahvahd" jokes, etc.
+ The solid supporting performances from Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, and Morgan Freeman.

I Disliked:
- Casey Affleck's performance - he didn't seem nearly tough enough to be talking they way he did to everybody.
- Michelle Monaghan's performance (or just her character) - she was awkward and seemed lost. By the way, does she not look identical to Emma Stone from Superbad?
- The similarities to The Departed - yes they were probably coincidental, but the gravelly rooftop showdown was a little much.

I Hated:
- That while it was suspenseful, the plot twists were extremely far-fetched. With the exception of The Usual Suspects, you can't have an ending that is totally out of left field and for which there are no clues (even in the obligatory flashbacks) that you could have picked up on.
- The creepy bathroom discovery scene - a little too graphic.

Writing - 9
Acting - 8
Production - 10
Emotional Impact - 9
Music - 4
Significance - 4

Total: 44/50= 88% = B+

Last Word: You're going to leave Gone Baby Gone feeling pretty sick about society, or at least you should if you have any decency.
I was pleased with the portrayal of Boston, or at least of the Boston I knew going to school there. Oddly, though, all the evil characters didn't really make me want to move back. I haven't read any of Dennis Lehane's novels, but I'm pretty sure he always sets up a dark, creepy Boston, like in Mystic River. I don't know if I would consider Gone Baby Gone a grand lesson about humanity, but there is a fairly complex dilemma that is posed at the end and it's especially well written and executed. Ben Affleck gets the family award in this one, as he was able to create some extremely suspenseful scenes. Casey, while fine for the role, just didn't do much but spout his tough lines. I missed his character in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I would recommend Gone Baby Gone for fans of "CSI" or "Cold Case", neither of which I've ever seen but both of which always seem to be about sensational violence and sordid child abductions. Isn't a little troubling that this is the most popular show genre year after year? Makes me sick...

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