RARA-AVIS: At the Movies... (Gone, Baby, Gone)

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 27 Oct 2007

On Oct 25, 2007, at 4:15 AM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

> Even if it's a lie, it's still a great story. And
> thanks for reminding me of Sin City. I absolutely
> loved the movie. I've seen it several times. So over
> the top. So totally hardboiled.

So perfect for the fourteen year olds that make up the so much of the movie-going audience.

I don't know... SIN CITY looked cool, but to me it was just a pretentious comic book (OOOH, black ink!) turned into a pretentious cartoon, PULP FICTION meets Bugs Bunny, but without the wit of either. Would either the graphic novel or the film of SIN CITY have survived as a straight prose story, without the visuals?

And 300 was much the same, all fat and precious little meat. Except it added the gay element. So homophobic 14-year olds could look at naked sweaty, well-built men and not have to wait for football season. It's got to be about the gayest straight movie ever made.

And now Frank Miller is putting his mighty fists of ham on Chandler? Yikes!

Owen has his work cut out for him.

On the other hand, I'm pleased to report that GONE, BABY, GONE is pretty good stuff.

I've had my fun over the years poking fun at the source, a sterling example of hard-boiled bloat I simply found LONG, BABY, LONG. But first time director Ben Affleck cut out plenty of narrative fat from Lehane's book, and has delivered one of the best made-for-adults P.I. flicks in a long, long time; a lean, mean directorial debut that I don't think anyone saw coming.

His kid brother Casey, in the lead role as P.I. Patrick Kenzie, looks about twelve, but he pulls it off with surprising effectiveness. The showdown in the bar with the locals is a classic -- the sorta scene that in most flicks usually ends up in an excess of violence and stuntmen working overtime and scenery smashing gets turned on its head; this is hard-boiled reduced to its essence. Not the willingness to loudly go at it, but to quietly stand up to the threat of it.

Both Bubba and Angie's characters have also been stripped down to their essence -- thank god -- and the stories moves quickly and stays focussed on the hunt for a missing little girl, culminating in a satisfyingly noirish ending that recalls CHINATOWN. Favourably.

And the feel for Boston is dead-on, more THE DEPARTED than SPENSER FOR HIRE, thankfully. The language, the attitude, the claustrophobic vibe of guilt and grit and working class dreams that get broken before they even start -- it all works. I'm not sure if rookie director Affleck can ever pull this off again -- being a Boston boy himself no doubt helped immeasurably -- but this is a good one. Not just adequate, or "too too bad," but arguably one of the best P.I. films ever made, and certainly the best in far too long.

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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