As regular visitors to the Los Angeles of Chandler or Ellroy or Connelly (or Mankell’s Malmö) will tell you, all crime is local, or at least all crime fiction is. “I don’t wanna be a product of my environment; I want my environment to be a product of me,” says Nicholson at the outset of The Departed. Easy for him to say: that New York-shot remake of a Hong Kong hit no more took place in Boston than classic noirs took place anywhere but some backlot-expressionist urban Big Nowhere. Film noir is fatalistic, its moral bleakness a cosmic style; contemporary crime fiction, when not merely armchair tourism, is deterministic, with each narrative’s catalytic incident the flowering of deep-reaching roots. And if Gone Baby Gone surpasses Mystic River as an adaptation of one of Dennis Lehane’s Boston-set novels, it’s because debuting director Ben Affleck zeros in on his hometown fiercely, with perverse pride.
The camera stays medium-in, eschewing wide establishing shots for close-ups within scenes, constructing location bottom-up. In his opening voice-over, Patrick Kenzie (the director’s bro Casey) posits the sanctity of the “things you don’t choose,” namely home, family. Kenzie “knows people in the neighborhood,” ventures the client who hires him and Girl Friday Angie (Michelle Monaghan) to find her missing niece, and his home-field advantage grants him a maneuverability through Dorchester drug dens that god cop/bad cop Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris lack. Watching Affleck shoot the shit with low-life old friends, Monaghan plays her reaction shots close to the vest; more than the heavy Catholic guilt of the multi-tiered kidnapping plot, Angie advances the film’s central inquiry, namely, what exactly it is it takes a village to do. Opens October 19