Mystic River is a film of extraordinary acting. The acting in this film is so good that it at times overshadows the plot line, which is both engaging and at times bogged down. In all it leads to an ending which is confusing and seemingly out of place.
The film opens with childhood friends Jimmy, Dave, and Sean in Boston. Jimmy is the ringleader of the group and the one with the most attitude. While engraving their names in some wet concrete, two men posing as police officers show up and end up taking Dave away. The men are in fact kidnappers, and Dave is held for four days against his will before finally escaping.
Fast forward to the present. Jimmy (Penn) is the owner of a local grocery store, Sean is now a cop, and Dave has been in and out of jobs, seemingly still scarred from his experience with the kidnappers. All of them still live in Boston, but have not kept in great touch over the years. However, they will soon be brought together under the most unfortunate of circumstances.
While out one night for some crazy fun, Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum) disappears and is soon found dead in the local park. Sean is assigned to the case with his partner, Whitey (Fishburne). This tragedy will soon cause all of the friends to question themselves and each other.
Running a steady 137 minutes, Mystic River constantly keeps the viewer engaged. There is hardly any “action” to speak of, but the sheer realism of the performances and how much care the film has for its characters will keep you on the edge of your seat. There are a few questionable plot twists, plus an ending which may be disappointing for some.
Clint Eastwood’s direction is also top notch. He makes excellent use of overhead shots and constantly finds new ways to show us things without seeming to gaudy for a drama.
As mentioned above, all of the performances are spot on. Penn and Robbins in particular could see Oscar nominations come their way. Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne top off the top drawer male cast, but it would be criminal to overlook the key female performances. Marcia Gay Harden is absolutely fantastic as Dave’s wife, Celeste. She is definitely one of the most curious characters in the film. Without revealing too much, by the film’s end, you will see why. Laura Linney is also solid as Jimmy’s wife, Annabelle.
In the end, Mystic River features some of, if not, the best performances of the year, especially from Penn and Robbins. The unfolding of the plot may be contrived and confusing to some, but it nonetheless holds its own among the year’s best. This is one of the finer dramas to come down the pike in some time.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 137 Minutes
Rating: R for language and violence.
Theatrical Release: October 8, 2003 (Limited) / October 15, 2003 (Wide)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Brian Helgeland. Based upon the novel by Dennis Lehane.
Cast: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney