After a run of bad acting gigs, Ben Affleck rebooted his career, writing & megging this well-received missing-child detective yarn. Considering all the positive buzz, it didn’t exactly light up the box-office, and you’ll see why. It’s a lousy story. Casey Affleck, who can’t quite work up the energy to clear his throat, is a small-time private dick who works cases with his g’friend (Michelle Monaghan). Shy of experience, they’re an unlikely hire when a cute 4 yr-old girl goes missing, a high profile case with lots of cops & press. The trail starts at home, with the kid’s drug-addled mom and her various low-life associates. Affleck uses some local connections to get a leg up, and quickly gloms onto a couple of savvy cops who are working the case, an excellent John Ashton and Ed Harris who seems to have stolen Aidan Quinn’s voice, gestures & hair. The story resolves itself three or four times, presumably following the structure of Dennis Lehane’s novel, using up more red herrings than an Agatha Christie Poirot, while laying the ‘Baahston’ atmosphere on with a trowel. But no amount obfuscation can turn a final charge of child abduction, multiple murder (including a police officer) and a near drowning into much of a moral conundrum. Are we visiting Boston or Chinatown? And while an early action sequence is shot & edited to be an indecipherable mess on purpose, that’s no excuse for the other set pieces in the pic.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Affleck’s follow up, THE TOWN/’10, though also overrated, was a significant step up.