Hope springs eternal in dark film

As an actor Ben Affleck had a string of misses from “Daredevil” and “Gigli” to “Jersey Girl” and “Surviving Christmas,” but then out of nowhere Affleck surprised audiences with his directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone.”

Mr. Film Flop was able to recover with the critical success story to rival any other famous director’s. The film was nominated for 34 awards and won 23 of those at festivals and awards shows.

This weekend Affleck’s latest film and major Oscar contender, “Argo,” is coming to theaters. In honor of his third feature film, and to highlight one of many great DVDs you can pick up for free from Hastings Public Library, I decided to review Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone,” which is celebrating its five-year anniversary.

“Gone Baby Gone” follows two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl’s kidnapping. Along the way the detectives face a myriad of lively, troubling characters. Together the story, characters and setting equate to a neo noir classic in the same vein of “Chinatown” or “Blood Simple.”

Ben Affleck directs brother Casey Affleck on the city streets of Boston, which is no Hollywood. Affleck’s Boston is infested with unsightly individuals with a fondness for graphic language and violence.

This creates a contrast with the featured actors in the film, especially Michelle Monaghan and Casey Affleck. These two baby-faced detectives stick out like a sore thumb and are not allotted any respect until they start delivering the goods. Casey Affleck may not look like the rest of his Bostonian brethren, but he does talk the talk. Not putting up with any lip from anyone, Casey Affleck effectively plays a tortured detective attempting to solve a veiled mystery.

Another remarkable performance comes from Amy Ryan as the little girl’s mother. Ryan’s appearance is modified with grease and sleazy apparel, but it is what Ryan is able to do underneath the makeup and costume that is fantastic.

As a drugged-out, irresponsible mother, she slams down beers while telling detectives and cops that she loves her baby. Her appearance and lifestyle say otherwise, but her eyes echo the love.

The story takes a nosedive over and over again as failures mount and death is met. This overly dark film shows a world diseased and decaying as madmen and women carry out the most despicable crimes imaginable, until an unexpected twist reveals something different entirely: hope.

A queasy feeling never left my stomach as I watched, because this is not an openand- shut mystery thriller. Happy endings are for Sherlock Holmes, while Casey Affleck’s character struggles through his cases.

“Gone Baby Gone” is a crime thriller first, but also a morality tale as the detective must gun down criminals in cold blood and discover truths that are unbelievable. The question becomes: When does a cop kill a killer, and when is the crime so vile that death is all the criminal scum deserves?

Ben Affleck employs a great screenplay, actors and a dreary setting to entice audiences. “Gone Baby Gone” is an excellent film and makes a fresh new director out of a washedup Hollywood actor.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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