Back when Jimmy, Dave and Sean were kids, Dave was abducted and sexually abused by some Church pedophiles (hey, itís Massachusetts). Dave escaped, but some things are inescapable Ė like your memories. Now, in the present day, a new trauma has brought the three together. Jimmy (Sean Penn), an ex-con convenience store owner, learns that his teenaged daughter has been brutally murdered. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is the detective assigned to the case, along with his unfortunately named partner, Whitey (Laurence Fisburne). And Dave (Tim Robbins) is a prime suspect. Coming home the night of the murder with someone elseís blood all over him, a busted hand and a big gash in his stomach doesnít help. But then again, thereís a gun that can be tied to the victimís boyfriend, Brendan (Thomas Guiry). So will the police be able to solve this crime or will a father demand his own justice? Either way, itís amazing they donít all kill each other with that annoying Bostonian accent.
But seriously, Mystic River is one of those films thatís going to stick around for a while. Itís directed and performed like itís already a classic. Sean Penn is absolutely incredible and Tim Robbins gives the best performance of his career without a doubt. Kevin Bacon is subtle and convincing, while Laurence Fishburne defies the role of a black sidekick and makes a strong and essential detective. Marcia Gay Harden sells Daveís freaked out wife well. And bravo to the young Thomas Guiry, who seals the deal on a huge film career with his genuine performance.
Whereas the film canít really be described as fast-paced, there is virtually no filler. Each scene draws us closer to our conclusions, mislead as we may be. What makes Mystic River a true success is that the people are as interesting as the crime. Usually, one of these aspects is overlooked. Either an interesting crime happens in a world of idiots or a bunch of intriguing characters get caught up in something stupid. Instead, Mystic River succeeds in offering both a compelling murder mystery and a touching introspective on the emotional world of adult males.
As impressive as the performances and plot structure are, one has to observe the expert way in which Eastwood combines Tom Sternís excellent cinematography with Eastwoodís own orchestrated music. Who knew? But the score dramatically highlights some of the more fluid and graceful shots in the film.
The ending fumbles the ball a bit, wrapping up some charactersí fate too quickly and unfairly acquitting others. The killerís intentions are inadequately explained and some may leave the theater sadly confused after riding a high wave of brilliant filmmaking. Jimmyís wife, while well played by Laura Linney, is underwritten and comes off as superfluous until she delivers a long and inexplicable monologue near the filmís close.
Interesting side note, Clint Eastwood may be a Republican, but he cast this incredible film with more of Hollywoodís giant liberals than Iíve ever seen in one place (anti-war protests notwithstanding).
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