Gone Baby Gone
Cast: Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), Remy Bressant (Ed Harris), Nick Poole (John Ashton), Helene McCready (Amy Ryan), Lionel McCready (Titus Welliver), Bea McCready (Amy Madigan)
Director: Ben Affleck
Theatrical release: 10/19/2007
DVD Date: 02/12/2008
Running Time: 114 minutes
Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the novel Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane.
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Review: I can't say why it took me so long to watch Gone Baby Gone, it being available on DVD for over 18 months now. Maybe part of the reason is that I still haven't seen Mystic River and for some reason I thought I should have seen it first. Not that the movies are dependent upon each other; about the only thing they have in common is they were both adapted from novels by Dennis Lehane. I still haven't seen Mystic River (but will eventually) but I did rent a copy of Gone Baby Gone.
The film stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as Boston private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, who are not only partners in their business but also partners in bed. It is based on the 4th book in the series, which won the 1999 Dilys Award for Best Novel.
A little girl, Amanda McCready, is missing. The police are reluctant to call it a kidnapping as that would bring in the FBI and they're confident they can handle it on their own. The missing girl's aunt, though, disagrees and hires Kenzie and Gennaro to ask questions the police are presumably not asking, and talk to people who may not talk to the police. They agree to take the case, though somewhat reluctantly. Kenzie doesn't think they can do any more than the police, and Gennaro doesn't want to be involved in a case that may result in finding the body of Amanda.
In charge of the task force investigating the girl's disappearance is Jack Doyle, played by Morgan Freeman. The two detectives on the street are Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton). Doyle doesn't want Kenzie and Gennaro getting in the way, but doesn't prevent them from getting involved. They quickly come up with a lead for Bressant and Poole, which ultimately leads to a meeting with the people who have taken Amanda. But something goes terribly wrong, and Amanda is lost, presumably drowned in a nearby lake (though her body is never recovered).
It would seem the investigation is over, but the movie is only half over leaving plenty of time for introspection on what went wrong and why.
While there are many aspects to Gone Baby Gone that are well done, what prevents me from recommending this film rests squarely on the shoulders of Casey Affleck. His acting is flat and uninspired, and worse, he is unintelligible for much of the film. I'm not sure if that's his normal way of speaking or if he was directed to speak that way, but some 80% of his dialog cannot be understood. It isn't his accent; he simply mumbles monotonically, slurring his words together. But since he's in virtually every scene of the movie, it's hard to ignore him. The other actors are better and give performances typical of what's expected from them. A bit of a disappointment, though, is Morgan Freeman, not for his acting but the fact that he's on screen for just a few minutes in total. And in the three short scenes where Freeman's character and Affleck's are together, the contrast between them couldn't be greater. Affleck is way out of his league here.
The film is generally well made, atmospheric without being gloomy. For a suspense thriller, there's just the right amount of tension. The direction isn't as crisp as it could have been -- several scenes go on for a bit too long -- and there are a few continuity issues that are probably the result of sloppy editing. The plot has some interesting and not unexpected twists, and will no doubt generate some viewer debate on legal versus moral issues, but that's not inappropriate. What is inappropriate, though, is Affleck's character taking both sides of the argument, playing the "do as I say not as I do" role. It makes the justification for his actions completely suspect, and any sympathy I might have had for his character or his situation vanished as a consequence.
Gone Baby Gone isn't a great movie, but it could have been much better one had Ben simply told his brother to enunciate.
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