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Mystic River Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/01/2003

I wasnít too sure I was going to like Mystic River.  The only other movie I have seen that was directed by actor Clint Eastwood that didnít also star him was one of the few movies starring John Cusack that I hated, 1997ís Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Everyone around me encouraged me to check it out anyway, and Iím glad I did.

 

Back when they were kids, Jimmy Markum (Jason Kelly), Dave Boyle (Cameron Bowen), and Sean Devine (Connor Paolo) were best friends.  One day, while playing hockey on one of the streets of Boston, they were caught writing their names in the cement of a sidewalk by a guy claiming to be a cop, and another who appeared to be a priest.  Since Dave was the only boy not living on that block, the cop and the priest took him away in their car.  After four days of sexual abuse, Dave escaped, and grew up very much changed.  Fast forward to the present, and the three friends have gone their separate ways.  Jimmy (Sean Penn) grew up as a hood and did a two year stint in jail.  He is now married to his second wife, Annabeth (Laura Linney), and has three daughters, the two oldest being the offspring of his late first wife.  He also is a convenience store owner, and his 19-year-old oldest daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), who works at the store with him, is found viciously murdered in a public park.  A grown up Sean (Kevin Bacon) and his Massachusetts State Police partner Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) are the first detectives on the scene.  After trying to calm Jimmy down, they set out to find Katieís killer by interviewing the witnesses, of which there were little.  One of the potential suspects is Katieís secret boyfriend, Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry), the son of an old enemy of Jimmy.  Jimmy has his hood friends, the Savage Brothers Val and Nick (Kevin Chapman & Adam Nelson), do their own investigation, which is a little more aggressive and intimidating than the efforts of the police.  The grown up Dave (Tim Robbins) is also a possible suspect, because he saw Katie dancing with her friends on the counter of the bar he was drinking in on the night of her murder.  Coincidentally, Dave came home with a knife wound and blood on his hands.  He claimed to have killed a mugger, but his wife, Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), begins to suspect him when the mugger murder is never reported in the paper and Daveís behavior begins getting a little odd.  The former friends are all haunted by their pasts.  Dave with the abuse as a child, Jimmy with his criminal past, and Sean with the mysterious disappearance of his wife six months earlier, who keeps calling Sean and not talking.  They are now reunited, but not under the best of circumstances.

 

This movie is so good that I am chalking Midnight up as a fluke.  The acting is excellent all around, with Penn being the highlight.  He had the great opportunity to play tough and mean, yet tortured by his emotions over his daughterís murder.  Robbins spends all of his time with a blank look on his face (except for one scene where he freaks out in front of Celeste), but that is just how I would think a person might look while living with the memory of a traumatic event.  Bacon wasnít a standout, but he was decent as the cop who remained hard, except when receiving those calls from his wife, where I felt his frustration.

 

My only problem with the movie was the ending.  Iím not a stupid person, but I donít like it when a movie makes me assume the eventual fate of a character instead of showing it.  Iím not saying the movie has to pull a ďDragnetĒ and make the character stand up for his mug shot picture while the narrator says the outcome of his trial, but I would like a little resolution.

I know this is getting to be a recurring theme in my reviews, but I have to predict the Oscar chances for Mystic River.  This is the time to do it anyway, so I doubt I am the only one making predictions.  Iím thinking Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood, and Best Actor for Penn.  If the studio, Warner Brothers, pushes Robbins in the Supporting Actor category, he might get it.  I know he was one of the main characters, but he had slightly less screen time than Penn or Bacon.  I would go for the Oscar potential, and just because it is a good movie in general.  This movie makes me want to see another non-starring directorial effort of Eastwood that I keep hearing good things about called Bird.

1/2

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