Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Movie review: GONE BABY GONE

Gone Baby Gone is tanking at the box office. In two weeks, it’s barely made $11 million nationwide. And that’s horribly sad, because it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in the past year, and maybe the best new film of the private eye genre I’ve seen since, well, maybe Chinatown, more than thirty years ago.

Gone Baby Gone is based on the fourth of five novels by Dennis Lehane about Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. Every one of those books, published in the 1990s, is spectacular. So much so that ten years after reading them, I still vividly recall each one. Now here’s what director-screenwriter Ben Affleck has done magnificently: he’s crafted a movie that captures Lehane’s book detail by detail. The script is lifted from the novel’s pages with little alteration. I recognized snatches of dialogue. There are set pieces from the novel that have been translated precisely to the screen. And the casting is spot-on.

Be warned: Gone Baby Gone is a dark mystery about child abuse and kidnapping, lightened only by brief snatches of verbal humor from Casey Affleck’s extraordinary portrayal of Kenzie. But if you like detective stories stuffed with twists and turns and moral dilemmas, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this film. And if you’re a Lehane fan, this movie adaptation of Gone Baby Gone will astonish you.

If this movie were building a decent audience right now, I’d anticipate a second film from the Kenzie-Gennaro series. I don’t think I’m gonna get that. A shame, since I’m so in love with the performances of Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, who plays Angie. But at least I’ll soon have the DVD to add to my library of noir films. And I guess I can always hope that, even after eight years, Dennis Lehane will eventually write a sixth Kenzie-Gennaro novel.

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