"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. ... He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it."
-- Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
The detective's job and nature haven't changed much since Raymond Chandler wrote those words in 1945; the streets, though, are another matter. Directed by Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone follows two detectives, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan) as they go down the main streets and back alleys of shabby South Boston investigating the disappearance of little Amanda McCready (Madeline O'Brien). The girl's mother Helene (Amy Ryan) is a drunk, a druggie, a loser. In the early scenes where Helene stands in front of the media circus that's erupted around the case, Ryan brings a perverse, compelling mix of emotions to life in Helene's eyes, fear and confusion and a fierce, wretched kind of glee: She finally matters.
And normally, she doesn't, and she knows it. It's Helene's sister-in-law Beatrice (Amy Madigan) who actually hires Kenzie and Genarro -- Helene and her brother Lionel (Titus Welliver) both can't imagine anything above and beyond the efforts of the Boston PD. Kenzie and Genarro take the case, figuring they'll ask a few questions and earn a few bucks. The cops working the abduction (John Ashton and Ed Harris) are driven and competent and not overly fond of private investigators; their boss, Captain Doyle (Morgan Freeman) lost his own daughter to an abduction-murder years back, so he's driven, too. But everyone involved knows the math: The longer Amanda is lost, the more likely she'll be lost forever. And, through the days that turn to weeks, something happens: Kenzie can't stop looking.