Mystic River (2003)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
Produced by Robert Lorenz, Judie G. Hoyt, Clint Eastwood
The most commercially successful movie Clint Eastwood has directed without also appearing in as an actor is a well-intentioned piece of hackwork. Neither assured filmmaking nor the presence of some of the best actors of their generation are capable to breathing more than a puff or two of emotional honesty into this overworked stock material, adapted by Brian Helgeland from an airport paperback mystery by Dennis Lehane. It’s preferable to the lifeless 1996 melodrama Sleepers, in which childhood sexual abuse formed cloudy skies over adult survivors played by Jason Patric, Billy Cudrup and Brad Pitt. This is because Eastwood and Lehane are more dedicated to their craft than Barry Levinson or Lorenzo Carcaterra, but any way you cut it, Mystic River suffers from an extreme rigor mortis of plot.
Though nothing in Mystic River feels unforced, there are bright spots. 17-year-old Emmy Rossum lights up the screen in her brief appearance as the murder victim, while Eastwood’s old bandit buddy Tuco (Eli Wallach) from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has a terrific cameo as a liquor store proprietor. Most everything else occurs in capital letters. Sean Penn gives an Award Winning Performance, baring a Boston accent and tattoos and allowed to launch into one of the greatest fits of ham in film history. The movie has nowhere left to go after Penn’s hysterics over the murdered body of his character’s daughter and it isn’t helped by a tired story about Dark Secrets lurking in The Old Neighborhood revealed through a Brutal Murder. This material deserves to be Abandoned and Left For Dead.
On the banks of the Mystic River in suburban Boston, young Jimmy Markum (Jason Kelly), Sean Devine (Connor Paolo) and Dave Boyle (Cameron Bowen) are caught scrawling their names in cement by two men posing as police officers. Dave is taken away in their car and manages to escape his tormentors after four days of captivity. Years later, Jimmy (Sean Penn) is a reformed thief who operates a small market with his strong willed 19-year-old daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) working behind the counter. Jimmy’s daughter with his second wife Annabeth (Laura Linney) is celebrating her first communion. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a Massachusetts State Police detective estranged from his wife, who took off with another man while carrying Sean’s child. Dave (Tim Robbins) is a husband and father and is still haunted by the tragedy of his childhood.
A 911 call alerts police to Katie’s abandoned, blood soaked car not far from the church where she fails to appear for the communion. Sean and his partner Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) lead the search for Katie’s body and find her shot twice, beaten and left in the old bear cages in Franklin Park. Emotionally devastated, Jimmy engages his former criminal associates the Savage Brothers (Kevin Chapman, Adam Nelson) to hit the neighborhood for information. Dave saw Katie at a bar the night she was murdered and when he returns home to his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) injured and covered in blood — not to mention mentally unstable — the detectives take notice. Celeste begins to wonder if he had a part in Katie’s murder and makes the mistake of sharing her fears with Jimmy.
Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 192 users: 88% for Mystic River
Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: 84 for Mystic River
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