Movie Review: Mystic River
Rating: R (language and violence)
Length: 138 minutes
Release Date: October 15, 2003
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Crime, Drama, and Mystery
Stars: 4 out of 5
"Mystic River" is an enthralling tale of childhood friends who reunite later in life and discover that a lot has changed. The film's script is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. All that the script needed to really enhance it was an acclaimed director, and "Mystic River" certainly got that with Clint Eastwood, who also co-produced and scored the film. Eastwood had particular actors in mind when casting the three main roles, and he got his wishes. Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins played the roles of Jimmy, Sean, and Dave respectively. Another star, Laurence Fishburne, was brought onboard to play the role of Detective Powers. With such a stellar cast, audiences and critics expected a lot from "Mystic River" when it was released in theaters, and it certainly delivered on its promise.
In the opening scene of the film, Jimmy, Sean, and Dave are young boys playing hockey in a residential area of Boston. Supposed police officers approach them and take Dave away. They hold him captive for four days while they sexually abuse him. This event has a major impact on Dave later in life and also shapes Jimmy's and Sean's lives.
The film then jumps forward twenty-five years to show the three boys, now grown up and gone their separate ways. Jimmy is a hardened criminal, Dave has suffered a mental breakdown primarily because of the abuse he suffered as a boy, and Sean is a detective with the Massachusetts State Police. One morning, Jimmy's nineteen-year-old daughter Katie does not come home from a night out with some friends. Later that day, her dead body is found and Jimmy's old friend Sean is tasked with solving the murder together with his partner, Sergeant Powers. Dave goes home that night with an injured hand and bloodied clothes. When confronted by his wife, he responds that he fought off a robber. After hearing the news of Katie's death, he realizes that he saw her at a bar only minutes before she was murdered.
The Massachusetts State Police and Jimmy's gang each launch separate investigations to find Katie's murderer. After snooping around, Jimmy learns of Dave's whereabouts that fatal night. Convinced that Dave committed the murder, Jimmy demands the truth from Dave. Dave finally admits that he beat a child molester to death on the night of the murder and that is why he was covered in blood. However, Jimmy refuses to believe him and kills him.
Meanwhile, the police investigation has zeroed in on Brendan Harris, the victim's boyfriend. The two detectives conclude that Harris is the likely killer because he had wanted to elope with Katie and she refused. However, Harris maintains his innocence. Then Harris discovers his younger brother and a friend with a gun similar to the one used to kill Katie and guesses that they are the murderers. The detectives arrive at the scene and agree with his assessment. The two boys confess to the crime and admit that it was a prank gone wrong, and Jimmy thanks Sean for finding Katie's killers. When Sean asks what happened to Dave, Jimmy replies that Sean was a little too slow in finding those responsible for the murder of his daughter.
Movie critics hailed Penn's role of Jimmy as one of his best acting roles ever. Other critics went so far as to say that "Mystic River" was Eastwood's greatest film as a director. The film earned revenues five times its $30 million budget and was declared a box office success worldwide. Unsurprisingly, "Mystic River" went on to claim many accolades, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robbins) at the Academy Awards and Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Penn) at the Golden Globe Awards. Eastwood was also nominated for Best Director among many other accolades, but his most notable recognition came in the form of the Golden Coach at the Cannes Film Festival.
In order to keep the setting as real as possible, all of the film's scenes were shot on location in Boston. "Mystic River" will keep audiences engrossed throughout the entire story, due to its many twists and turns. The standard of acting in this movie is particularly high and brings out the best in many of the leading actors. While the plot may seem gruesome at times, the interplay between the main characters will have audiences at the edge of their seats. With its great acting and an intricate plot, "Mystic River" is right up there with the best dramas.