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.
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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 Gothics, 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
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