At its heart this film is about taking responsibility. Responsibility for your life. Responsibility for all the things in the world that you did or did not choose. The opening monologue played over scenes of Boston, many with children, tells us that we are proud of where we live. Proud of how it defines us. Even though we aren't responsible for where we're born, we take a kind of pride in it.
This film borrows heavily from the Film-Noir tradition of the 40s and 50s. The main character is a P.I. and his girlfriend is also a P.I.. Which is a strange twist on the classic role of the female in film noir. Usually women represent a tragic kind of temptation in the classic Noirs but in this they are a team, two investigators, trying to find a child. But the classic themes of crime and corruption are all present. Also anytime you have a story involving crimes against children it is easy to think of Fritz Lang's M, one of Film Noir's godfathers, where we have Peter Lorre as a child murderer.
The farther our main character goes in the darker things become. And then in the end he is forced to take responsibility for his actions and choices, and in the last lingering shot we are cleverly told through the use of a living room and a TV set that we are the ones who need to take responsibility next. The plot centers around police corruption. But in this case the corruption doesn't involve narcotics or moles like The Departed, it involves protection of Children. I won't give away too much for people who haven't seen this film, but the twists and turns go on for a while as the main character finds himself discovering new strangeness in the Boston Police department every few minutes.
Several times during the film we find police waxing on about utilitarian ethics. They may not know that's what they're talking about, but their way of thinking is clearly within this tradition. And what ultimately makes the story interesting and confusing is that we feel the force of their arguments. We see how the police corruption in this film actually centers around a desire to do good, and not just to make money i.e. Training Day.
But even when our main character stands up for his conscience and the rule of democracy and law we find ourselves wondering...did he really do the right thing? When a film takes one of our highest values and makes us ask ourselves if it really is worth it and then by the end of the film tells us essentially that we, the people, make it worth it or not and it does this purely through visual communication we have a great film on our hands. This film does not pretend that America is great only because of its values. Our values are nothing if we choose not to value them. The pro life movement would mean nothing it didn't value children, if the only thing we cared about as pro lifers was the criminalization of Abortion what are we really fighting for? Justice without love is meaningless. And our hero in this film recognizes that and in the end fights for both.
The two brothers who brought this film to life, behind and in front of the camera, should be lauded for their excellent work. I think Casey is a better actor than his brother Ben, and so I am glad that Ben stayed behind the camera on this his directorial debut. Everyone else in the cast was very convincing. The script was solid, and while the overall pacing of the film was slow it was not boring. It had a steady pace punctuated with acts of violence and intrigue. I give this film a high level of endorsement and I think it really is a great movie. Thanks for recommending it Danny.