In his strikingly downbeat directorial debut, Ben Affleck pulls off something of a blue-moon rarity: an American movie of genuine moral complexity. From the moment Patrick Kenzie, played by Casey Affleck, promises a hard-living skank named Helene McCready that he'll find her missing girl, we know he's going to make good on it or die trying. That's what the heroic shamus does in detective fiction: He honors his code. But the great strength of Affleck's wrenching crime drama, adapted from the fourth book in novelist Dennis Lehane's Kenzie-Angie Gennaro series, is its ruthless undermining of the juvenile good-bad certainties of that code. Aided by girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan), Kenzie goes trawling for the little girl through an underworld of roughneck bars and drug hideouts the first of many good intentions that, by the end, will have greased an expressway to hell. The flimsy plotting is offset by sharp Boston location shooting, a persuasive cast especially Affleck, Ed Harris, and the brilliant Amy Ryan as Helene and an ending whose bleak ethical options will haunt you for days.
Ben AffleckMorgan Freeman, Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Robert WahlbergDennis Lehane, Ben AffleckDavid CrockettMiramax