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Nov 7, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Gone Baby Gone

I’m sure it’s an unfair comparison, and it may seem blasphemous to some, but I liked Gone Baby Gone more than Mystic River. Maybe it’s a factor of being able to relate more to Casey Affleck than to Sean Penn; or maybe it’s because the Shakespearean melodrama at the end of River was not only a huge turnoff, but the lasting image the film has for me; or maybe it’s just because I think Tim Robbins’ performance was more laughable than laudable (and I’m normally a big fan). What can I say – I’m the same guy that’ll take Casino over GoodFellas any day of the week.

I say it’s an unfair comparison because they really are two separate entities, and are directed by two different people at that, but it’s a pretty inescapable one as well. As a reader commented, Dennis Lehan’s novels are not all templates of one another, but these two (at least) do share some commonalities, not only in terms of story (female goes missing form the rough streets of south Boston) but in terms of mood and atmosphere that the respective directors (Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck) use to tell the story. Affleck sets the tone quickly, with a montage of streets, scenes and people in the ‘hood and a voiceover by Casey’s Patrick Kenzie (which is actually quite effective).

From there, the story gets going quickly, and the film never feels long (it clocks in at 114 minutes), playing out like a hybrid of The Departed and a Law & Order: SVU episode, with Kenzie the private investigator and his girlfriend/partner on the case, bouncing around from one seedy locale to another, hunting down a kidnapped (?) seven year old. Begrudgingly assisting them in their search is the Boston PD, embodied by Morgan Freeman’s Jack Doyle (as a captain who has lost a child himself), Ed Harris (looking more coppish as he ages, completed here by a flat-top and goatee, both of which suit him well) and character actor John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop I & II). Amy Madigan (Uncle Buck) appears as well, looking like warmed-over death as the aunt of the missing child, and I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t mention my favorite co-star: the mustache portrayed by Titus Welliver (pictured at right). It truly is magnificent, and probably deserves some attention for Best Supporting Actor.

Both Afflecks deserve any and all kudos they are receiving for their respective roles. Ben proves to be a skilled director, keeping the pace brisk, the acting more than believable, and the mood unwavering. Casey, meanwhile, a much more, um, subtle actor than Ben, plays it cool and somber, with his emotions held in check until someone forcibly draws his ire. And he packs a mean bark and bit for someone of his stature. The performance is not showy, and where some might have wanted to see a Penn-like release of fury and anger and grief, the role not only doesn’t call for it, it would be out of place. This film is not about causes and reactions as River was, but about decisions. Early on, Kenzie’s partner (played by Michelle Monaghan) is nervous about taking the case, telling him “I don’t want this to end with us finding a dead baby girl in a dumpster somewhere.” Together, they face the possible realities (and repercussions) that lie ahead not only for the missing girl and her family, but for themselves and a number of others in the neighborhood.

You should make the decision to see it.

(My deepest apologies for ending with that line – it was just sitting there, begging to be used, and I couldn’t help myself.)

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"

1 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Gone Baby Gone"

Sheamus the... said...

I liked it better than Mystic River as well.