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Gone Baby Gone, Rendition and others

Roger Ebert thinks many are swell

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Gone Baby Gone

Boston seems like the most forbidding city in crime movies. There are lots of movies about criminals in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and points between, but somehow in Boston the wounds cut deeper, the characters are angrier, their resentments bleed, their grudges never die, and they all know everybody else’s business. The novelist Dennis Lehane captured that dour gloom in his books inspiring "Mystic River" and now "Gone Baby Gone." What would it take to make his characters happy?

This is his fourth story involving Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), lovers and business partners who are private investigators specializing in tracking down deadbeats. Approached by clients who have deadly matters on their minds, Patrick and Angie protest that they’re just garden-variety PIs, don’t carry guns, aren’t looking for heavy lifting. Then somehow they end up with crucifixion murders, kidnapped babies and, always, people who are not who or what they seem.

This could become a franchise, if we didn’t start grinning at their claims to be basically amateurs. In "Gone Baby Gone," Ben Affleck, in his debut as a director, assumes we haven’t read the four novels, approaches Patrick and Angie head-on and surrounds them with a gallery of very, very intriguing characters. He has his brother Casey and Monaghan play babes in a deep, dark wood, their youth and inexperience working for them as they wonder about what veteran cops don’t question. The result is a superior police procedural, and something more — a study in devious human nature.

What I like about the movie is the way Ben Affleck and his brother, both lifelong Bostonians, understand the rhythm of a society in which people not only live in each other’s pockets but are trying to slash their way out. This movie and the recent "Assassination of Jesse James ..." announce Casey’s maturation as an actor, and it also proves, after her film, "The Heartbreak Kid," that Michelle Monaghan should not be blamed for the sins of others. And when you assemble Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan and Amy Ryan as sidemen, the star soloists can go out for a cigarette and the show goes right on. One reason crime movies tend to be intrinsically interesting is that the supporting characters HAVE to be riveting. How far would Jason Bourne get in a one-man show? Rated R for violence, drug content and pervasive language. Three and a half stars – Roger Ebert


Gavin Hood’s terrifying, intelligent thriller tells the story of an Egyptian-born American who is "disappeared" from a flight by the CIA and held without good cause for torture and interrogation. Reese Witherspoon plays his pregnant wife, who turns to an old boyfriend (Peter Saarsgard) to intervene with his boss, a senator (Alan Arkin). Meryl Streep chillingly plays the U.S. head of intelligence, and Jake Gyllenhaal is the troubled CIA bureau chief in the country that is hired to torture the man. A big, confident, effective film with its politics seamlessly a part of its story. Hood won an Oscar in 2005 for his "Tsotsi." Rated R for torture/violence and language. Four stars – RE

Things We Lost In The Fire

A new widow (Halle Berry) is moved to invite her late husband’s best friend (Benicio Del Toro) to live in a room in her family’s garage — an improvement from his life as a recovering heroin addict. No, not a love story, but the portrait of two damaged people who loved the same man more than anyone else did. A perceptive view of how grief affects us, and an accurate look at the best friend’s experiences in a 12-step program. American debut of Danish director Susanne Bier (“Open Hearts,” “Brothers”). Rated R for drug content and language. Three Stars –  RE

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