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After feeling like I saw the Oscar winning Mystic River, a kidnap-thriller, taking place in Boston, based on a Dennis Lehane novel, not too long ago; Gone Baby Gone didn't seem appealing. It looked like pretty much the same thing, only it was directed by Ben Affleck, not Clint Eastwood, who I consider a bit of a film-making genius. Affleck, who after busting out on the scene, writing and starring in Good Will Hunting, had devolved into stumbling his way through some horrible big budget action flicks, then took a break for a few years. I didn't have much faith in his directing abilities based on that resume. But after receiving mostly rave reviews, I decided I should see it for myself.

The film is extremely similar to Mystic River, they shot in the same neighborhoods, featuring the same kind of characters. Only instead of seeing a kidnapping from the point-of-view of the father, we're seeing it from the investigator's. Casey Affleck, in possibly the performance of his life, plays Patrick Kenzie, a Southie-local with a knack for snooping. When the missing girl's parents hire him as a private investigator, he gets full access to the case and cooperation from the police, which they're initially not happy about. He has a checkered past, which helps him get information from the local lowlifes that won't talk to the cops. Along for the ride is his partner and girlfriend, played by Michelle Monagahan. They catch the scent of a trail and follow it to a local drug-dealer, who from the evidence they've collected, appears to be the kidnapper.

Just about when you think they have it all figured out, the film does a complete 180, leaving the viewer and the characters fully confused. It picks up a few months later, and they're no closer to the truth. They've been told to leave the case, but he's obsessed with figuring out what happened. Starting to respect him for his ruthlessness are a couple of cops, played by Ed Harris and character actor John Ashton. They bring him in on some other cases that may be involved with the kidnapping, where he gets into a few nasty situations, but finds some new clues and new suspects, leading him down a completely different path than before. This being a mystery-thriller, of course not all the characters are telling the truth, which leads to a bit of a surprise ending, and some major moral choices for Patrick.

After having some reservations about seeing this film, because of it's extreme similarities to Mystic River, I believe that Gone Baby Gone, is the superior film. The acting in both films is extremely well done, top-notch performances from everyone involved. But I think Gone, is a better focused, more entertaining film. Affleck's intimate knowledge of Boston, helps give the film a more of an insider's perspective, where Eastwood's seemed more stand-offish. They're both excellent films, you really couldn't go wrong with either one, and if you're into a depressing night with Boston, you could have a hell of a double feature. What makes the difference is, that I don't think I'll ever revisit Mystic River, but I can see giving Gone Baby Gone another viewing. Most of all, the film stands as an impressive directing debut for Ben Affleck, and I'm highly interested in seeing what film he does next. - Grade: B+

1 Response to Gone Baby Gone:

  1. Gone Baby Gone was in my Top 10 of 2008. It blew me away just like Mystic River blew me away, even more so.

    When I first saw the trailer for this I was, well... not excited but interested in another gritty child abduction film. The subject matter hits me like no other and this one punched me in the gut, hard.

    The scene with the bathtub made me feel like I wanted to die. Mystic River didn't really make me feel like that. For some reason, that was the feeling I apparently look for from stomach-punching movies.

    I think Gone Baby Gone was the finer made movie and was effective in ways Mystic River wasn't. Ben Affleck? Who knew? This one hit it out of the park. I wonder if he'll direct something else to continue this stream of name-clearing, but if not, I'll always have GBG.

    This also reminded me of Run, Fatboy, Run. David Schwimmer? Who knew?