After his son is shot to death at school, Detective Caleb Barnes (Stephen Baldwin) loses touch withhis soul. When a series of seemingly unrelated murders plagues Salt Lake City, the detective hides his grief in search of the killer. Hampered by a lack of clues, an imploding home life and his commander's unrelenting pressure, Caleb painstakingly unravels a tangled web, exposing a malignant familyhistory of abuse and murder.
Stephen Baldwin plays a detective riding the edge of burnout. His 6-year-old son was accidentally killed a few months ago, and the young Salt Lake City homicide cop is on the verge of becoming a basket case. A string of murders occur on his watch, all with the same m.o., and the pattern begins to look like that of a serial killer. As the detectives track down clues, a web of family neglect, abuse, and revenge begins to reveal itself. Director John Flynn also helmed two great '70s crime movies: the explosive Rolling Thunder
(scripted by Paul Schrader) and the sorely underrated The Outfit
. Flynn's directorial hand in Absence of the Good
shows similarities to the other films; they all deal with emotionally damaged protagonists, and Flynn uses the deadpan tone of their performances to build tension. Like William Devane's character in Rolling Thunder
, Baldwin's Caleb Barnes is much more than a grieving, emotionally numb wreck; he's a time bomb waiting for a chance to go off. The script has a painful, personal honesty in the scenes in which Barnes and his wife try to cope with the pain of losing their only child, and what it has done to them as a couple. Flynn also has an eye for taking rural scenarios and making them into white-trash American Gothic
s, infused with dread and blighted with derelict cars, trash heaps, and dilapidated trailers. Rising far above its made-for-cable origins, Absence of the Good
is a first-rate police procedural/crime drama with well-fleshed-out characters and enough unpredictable twists and turns to keep you guessing.--Jerry Renshaw