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Gone Baby Gone

As an actor, I can take or leave Ben Affleck, but as a director, he is undeniably talented, evidenced by his debut in that chair, 2007's GONE BABY GONE.

Affleck cast his brother Casey as Patrick Kenzie, a Boston bred young street detective, working with his partner Angie (a terrific Michelle Monaghan) on a fresh kidnapping case.

A 4 year old girl has been kidnapped from her mother, the rough, lowlife Helene (Amy Ryan, erasing all memories of her on "The Office" here) who spends more time with drugs and booze than her daughter. Helene's mom Bea (Amy Madigan) wants to hire Patrick and Angie because they grew up in the neighborhood and understand how to work it.

The police, led by Chief Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and detective Remy Bressant (a perfect Ed Harris) dont want them anywhere near the case, but begin to respect Patrick and Angie when their street smarts yield results.

Based on the book by Dennis LeHane and adapted by Affleck (an Oscar winning writer for "Good Will Hunting") the writing is strong, real and keeps you guessing what really did happen to little Amanda.

The Boston neighborhood depicted here, with what feels like genuine authenticity, feels like a third world, lawless, wild west of depravity, personal vice and tribal-like devotion to avoiding anyone or anything outside their own streets.

You can feel the entire community screaming "you think yo-aw better then me??!!" en masse. It's primal and Affleck portrays it perfectly, never with superiority but always with a loyalty to getting it right, perhaps as part of his own Boston roots.

The cast is flawless, down to the last bar patron. Harris and Affleck are at the top of their game and Amy Madigan punches you in the gut as a Grandmother ashamed of her daughter, but desperate to see her granddaughter again.

Profane and raw throughout, the dialogue feels like a cultural language somehow fitting the moral squalor depicted.

The movie opens with closeups of real faces in this Boston neighborhood. In voice-over narration Affleck's Patrick says, "I lived on this block my whole life; most of these people have. When your job is to find people who are missing, it helps to know where they started. I find the people who started in the cracks and then fell through..."

A brilliant opening to a great film.

GONE BABY GONE is wicked terrific and gets an A.

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