For his initial offering as director, Ben Affleck returns to the site of his first Oscar: South Boston (he and Matt Damon shared the award for Good Will Hunting). Hot on the heels of his moving turn in "Hollywoodland", Affleck's Dennis Lehane adaptation marks one of the more seamless actor-to-filmmaker transitions in recent years. Ostensibly, a procedural about the search for a missing child, class and corruption emerge as his primary concerns. First off, there's low-rent private eye Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck, equally adept in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"). Then there's the girl's drug mule mother, Helene (Amy Ryan, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"). She and Patrick grew up in Dorchester, but he took a different path, setting up an agency with his girlfriend, Angie (Michelle Monaghan). Helene's aunt, Bea (Amy Madigan), hires the duo to augment the investigation, and they team up with Captain Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and Detective Bressant (Madigan's husband, Ed Harris). The authorities don't appreciate the interference, but Patrick knows how to get the local populace talking, and he soon finds there's more to the story than anyone could possibly imagine. Hard-hitting, but never soft-headed, the evocative end result proves Affleck has a flair for this directing thing and that his little brother can carry a major motion picture with aplomb. "Gone Baby Gone" belongs on the list of great Boston crime dramas, along with "The Departed" and "Mystic River", Clint Eastwood’s take on Lehane. --"Kathleen C. Fennessy"