Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 43
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

WE’VE GOT TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS MYSTERY: Private detectives Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan, right) and Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) have been asked to help the police find the perpetrators who kidnapped four-year-old Amanda McCready (not shown).

Gone Baby Gone: Child Kidnapping Case at Center of Boston Crime Saga

There’s a renaissance of crime stories set in blue-collar Boston neighborhoods, most notably, this year’s Academy Award-winning Best Picture, The Departed as well as Mystic River, for which Sean Penn and Tim Robbins each earned Oscars. Gone Baby Gone is the second movie based on a best-seller by Dennis Lehane.

The movie marks the directorial debut of Ben Affleck who cast his brother Casey in the lead role of private eye Patrick Kenzie and Michelle Monaghan as his partner and girlfriend Angie Gennaro. While the mystery revolves around this pair’s collaboration on a case, Lehane fans should to be warned that the film is loosely based on the original source material.

For instance, the novel’s primary suspect is a Scandinavian named Cheese who weighs 430 pounds, although in the film Cheese is an emaciated Haitian (Edi Gathegi). However, the liberties taken with the plot are less of a problem than Ms. Monaghan’s inability to exhibit any emotional range.

In scene after scene, the actress offers no clue as to what’s on her character’s mind, and she serves simply as window dressing. Her flat reaction to every shocking revelation and grisly discovery is an infuriating distraction during an otherwise intriguing, multi-layered mystery.

At the point of departure, we learn that four year-old Amanda McCready (Madeline O’Brien) is missing from the rundown row house she shares in a seedy area of Dorchester with her single mother Helene (Amy Ryan), who is a drug addict. Aware that time is of the essence in any child kidnapping, the little girl’s Aunt Beatrice (Amy Madigan) and Uncle Lionel (Titus Welliver) intervene swiftly by retaining the services of local private detectives Kenzie and Gennaro, because they realize that witnesses will be more likely to speak to members of their tight-knit community than to cooperate with the city’s cops.

This does not sit well with Amanda’s mother, but she is too concerned with where her next high is coming from to protest. So, Police Chief Doyle (Morgan Freeman) reluctantly agrees to let them work in tandem with his officers already assigned to handle the search, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton).

Following a tip, Kenzie and Gennaro first confront drug dealer Cheese, and discover that they cannot always trust their sources. Undeterred, the two press on, although the deeper they dig, the more dangerous things become.

With an abundance of red herrings, Gone Baby Gone is a marvelous thriller guaranteed to keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat right up to its conclusion. Monaghan’s weak performance aside, the movie features stellar work from Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, as well as Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, and Titus Welliver.

It looks like Ben Affleck, by stepping to the other side of the camera, has found his true calling.

Excellent (3.5 stars). Rated R for profanity, ethnic and sexual preference slurs, drug use, and violence. Running time: 114 minutes. Studio: Miramax Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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