I couldn't help but see Nancy Grace's dancing, condescending head bounce inside my noggin during the second half of "Gone Baby Gone."
Not to give anything away, but the plot twists that surface in the second half mostly revolve around characters making life-changing, life-threatening decisions that are more personal and self-righteous than moral and, well, obvious. Everyone has his own set of rules, and those who don't abide by them are seen as the enemy. Hmm, doesn't that remind one of a certain talk-show host who chastises guests who don't see things her way?
Now, for those of you who had every intention of seeing "Gone" and can't because now that woman's face is stuck in your head, I deeply apologize. I didn't mean to ruin your Friday night like that. But envisioning a disembodied Grace was the most fascinating thing I got from this film, the directorial debut of Mr. Ben Affleck.
This isn't to say that "Gone" is a disaster. J. Lo's ex (and Elektra's baby's daddy) does an OK job adapting Dennis Lehane's 1998 novel to the big screen. But "Gone," with its monologue-filled performances and abundant aerial panoramas, mostly feels more routine than riveting, "Mystic River" as a Lifetime movie.
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In a case of nepotism that surprisingly pays off, he casts little brother Casey as Patrick Kenzie, the Boston private eye who, along with his partner/live-in love (Michelle Monaghan), gets hired to investigate the disappearance of a 4-year-old girl from his Dorchester neighborhood.
Despite his boyish looks, Kenzie, who still has friends in low places from the neighborhood, gets more out of the locals than the police (personified here by Police Chief Morgan Freeman and detectives Ed Harris and John Ashton).
It's very likely "Gone" will spark debate among viewers thanks to that aforementioned second half. (It may even be a topic of conversation on Grace's show one evening.) However, I fear "Gone" may become one of those films, like "Crash," where it's forgiven for its shortcomings and given a pass because of its button-pushing subject matter. (Not that I'm saying that "Gone" is in the same league with "Crash;" Ben Affleck has never annoyed me as much as Paul Haggis -- and Affleck starred in "Surviving Christmas"!)
Personally, any movie that wastes the talents of the magnificent Michael K. Williams, aka Omar the gay outlaw on HBO's "The Wire," briefly relegated here to the role of an info-dropping cop, has to take a couple of lumps. But, even when it brings to mind obnoxious cable-TV personalities, "Gone" doesn't leave you that quickly.