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Friday, November 4, 2011

Mystic River - 2003

Mystic River is a film that you will hear many people say is Clint Eastwood's finest work, and some say his finest. Unfortunately, as a very devoted Eastwood fan, I unfortunately must disagree with so many of those opinions. Mystic River is a film that gives its audience extreme insight into human nature (which of course is not at all uncommon in Eastwood's directing efforts), and I must say the human side to this film is quite emotional and tragic. To top that off Brian Helgeland brilliantly adapts this story from the novel of the same name, written by Dennis Lehane.

Growing up together in a neighborhood in Boston, three boys, Jimmy Markum, Sean Devine and Dave Boyle play together all the time and are the closest of friends. One day, when playing hockey in the streets the three notice wet concrete, and being boys they feel the uncontrollable urge to plant their hands into it, writing their names. But as they are doing so a car drives up and two men get out claiming to be police officers, and get onto the boys for messing with the concrete. The "officers" then take Dave and lock him away, sexually abusing him for four days, until he escapes.

Twenty five years later, still living in Boston, the three friends have sadly grown apart, giving only a friendly hello when passing in the streets. But when Jimmy's (Sean Penn) daughter is murdered, and Sean (Kevin Bacon) is the officer investigating, they suddenly find themselves together again. Unfortunately, Dave (Tim Robbins), traumatized by his past, becomes the top murder suspect, as he desperately tries to prove his innocence to his friends and family.

As you can see from the summary, Mystic River is your basic whodunnit, nothing more and nothing less. Where it succeeds more so than many others of the same genre is not its intelligence, it is the intelligence in which the film is made. Nothing special happens the entire film, but for some reason it is so captivating the audience cannot take their eyes off the screen for a minute. However, amidst the excellent script, character development, and intriguing story, there is a flaw. One that is in my mind major, and drastically hurt the film. I felt underwhelmed by Mystic River's tragic ending. I get it, and I get why the ending is what is was, but it just did not click for me. And above all I saw it coming, step by step, scene by scene. I had heard so much about the film before I saw it, it might be the same case as when I first saw The Sixth Sense. I was not surprised, I was only underwhelmed.

Clint Eastwood, to no surprise, directs Mystic River with his usual, effective style that reaches the audience like no other director does. Is the film slow? Always. But with each scene Eastwood hits the mark, creating the perfect environment for the type of film Mystic River was meant to be. Visuals are always a major part of Eastwood's work, and while he may not be the one behind them, his knowledge of how much visual splendor a film needs, and what is too much is indredible. Dark and gloomy, that is the way Eastwood directs this film.

Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, could you ask for three better men to star in a movie? Maybe, but after seeing this for the first time, you might change your mind. Bacon, with the best last name in history, has never been nominated for an Oscar, and rightly so for the most part. But if I were to choose a performance where Bacon potentially deserved the nod, it would hands down be this one. Possibly the most believable he has ever been. Sean Penn was brilliant, enough said. Robbins was excellent, but I must say if he did not win for The Shawshank Redemption, much less receive a nomination, then he did not deserve the praise and acclaim he was awarded for Mystic River.

Overall, Mystic River has all the ingredients for a brilliant film, but as a whole the last fifteen minutes just killed for me. It just further proves that if you have not seen a film, listening to other people's opinions and their spoilers can ruin the experience once you finally do.

3/4 Stars


  1. I run on a five star rating system, so I gave the film 4.5/5, as I had issues with the ending also. Anyways, great review Matt. Also, could you start reading my reviews please? or at least commenting

  2. Well, I suppose if I rated it that way it would be 4/5. and sure, I commented on your Dawn of the Dead review :)