Film – Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone     3 stars
Starring Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, John Ashton and Robert Wahlberg. Directed by Ben Affleck. Released by Miramax Films. Rated R; 1:55.

Poor Ben Affleck. From Oscar winner to laughingstock in only a handful of years. When he hooked up with J Lo and made “Gigli,” it seemed as if all was lost. Then came the inevitable breakup and the slow (“Hollywoodland”) and painful (“Daredevil”) crawl back toward respectability. All of which culminates in “Gone Baby Gone,” his first effort as a director. Working from a story by fellow Bostonian Dennis Lehane (author of “Mystic River”), Affleck scores a solid base hit in his first time at bat.

    In “Gone Baby Gone,” he wisely places the acting burden elsewhere, namely on the shoulders of his able brother, Casey, a solid Ed Harris and the great Morgan Freeman. The gritty, blue-filtered cityscape depicted by John Toll’s camera perfectly sets the scene for this high-stakes kidnapping drama. Riveting as the plotline is, some greater care taken with the dialogue might have made this a real classic.

    After the kidnapping of 4-year-old Amanda McCready, detectives Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angie (Michelle Monaghan) get involved in the search. Everyone’s motives eventually become exposed to the point of self-laceration. The two leads become liaisons to the official police investigation, which is how they make the acquaintance of Freeman, Harris and John Ashton.

    Not to be overlooked is the presence of Amy Ryan, who plays Amanda’s mother, a drug-addicted prostitute. Ryan is a masterful actress whose excellent work here fulfills the promise she’s showed on HBO’s “The Wire” over the past few years.

    “Gone Baby Gone” doesn’t quite pack the punch of its close cousin “Mystic River,” but it is certainly worth a viewing. Noted Red Sox fan Affleck is in the process (after a number of foul balls) of rounding the bases. Let’s not stand in his way.

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