Mystic River (2003)
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay By: Brian Helgeland
Based On The Novel By Dennis Lehane
Starring: Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney and Laurence Fishburne.

Mystic River is a dark tale about personal discovery. Three childhood friends' lives are forever changed when they are confronted for defacing public property. The supposed police demand that the boy, Dave, who doesn't live on that street, go with them back to his mother's home. Dave goes with them, but he does not go home, he is kidnapped and held hostage in a damp, dark cellar. After four days, the boy escapes—no longer a boy, but a man forced to remember these events for the rest of his life.

Cut to present day, the three friends (Dave, Sean and Jimmy) have drifted apart over the years, partially due to the incident. Dave (Tim Robbins) has become an introverted husband and father who does not seem to have an emotional grip on reality. Jimmy (Sean Penn) has gone through his ups and downs, spent time in jail but has settled down for the sake of his family. Suddenly, Jimmy's daughter is found murdered in the woods and his old friend Sean (Kevin Bacon), a homicide detective from the other side of Boston, is assigned the case. The mystery unfolds as suspicions arise about Dave's involvement in the murder.

The film deeply explores the emotions of the many characters; however, these emotions are not always expressed in an ideal way. Sean Penn goes a tad overboard, similar to Al Pacino in some of his over-the-top roles. Kevin Bacon has a clenched jaw as he does his best to play the character that would most likely have been played by Eastwood if he were younger. In fact the only one of the three friends whose character I felt was complete was Tim Robbins's Dave. The audience pities this man, regardless of the possibility that he murdered this poor girl. The self-inflicted torture of his mind is almost as disturbing as the torture applied by the kidnappers from the past.

Eastwood is a master at his craft, which includes acting, directing and composing. He creates a certain atmosphere in all of his films—like Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil and Unforgiven. Mystic River is no different in that respect; the direction and camera-work are spot-on. There are times here I could imagine that I'm viewing real events unfolding before me ... of course Penn's over-acting kills this for me, but it's there briefly.

Brian Helgeland's script is weak. The dialogue, no matter how well the characters present it, still comes off as amateurish and awfully unrealistic. The action is well done, but I give Eastwood the credit in that department. I'm sorry, but I just come to expect more from a guy that wrote the screenplays for L.A. Confidential and Payback. I do suppose he also wrote A Knight's Tale and The Postman, so he's hit-and-miss.

All in all I wanted to love this film, I really did, but I couldn't. The acting was not as great as many critics are giving it credit for and the screenplay was laughable at times. I still love Clint Eastwood with all my heart, I think I'll go watch my copy of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.


<-- Added a couple cite tags and did quite a few grammar edits // Simpleton 2004-12-31 -->