Review by Paul Stathakis | 2003

Deep and cold, like a river, but not half as calm. “Mystic River” is the intriguing drama we’ve been waiting for this year. It comes to us, finally, in the shape of a Clint Eastwood masterpiece. Part character study, part murder mystery, it is the kind of movie we wish could continue past its end credits.

Sean Penn stars as Jimmy, an ex-con and father of three, who spends his days operating a corner store. There’s Dave (Tim Robbins), also a devoted father and handyman, and Sean (Kevin Bacon), a homicide detective. The story is centred on these three characters.

All three are linked by their childhood memories. They were once good friends from the neighborhood, inseparable, until one event came and washed away their friendship.

“Mystic River” works wonderfully, the performances entangled with the deeply emotional story. And death, as a principle theme here, has never been so personal, not even in “Moonlight Mile”, which I said was “a film that is not afraid to discuss death realistically.”

I’d love to get into details of the film’s plot, but those responsible for the ad campaigns did a splendid job of not revealing anything remotely important about the movie. When I entered the theater, I didn’t quite know what to expect on screen. The end result is a profound story, super-charged with strong performances. Believe me, not knowing much about it is part of the reason it had such a big impact on me.

This is Clint Eastwood’s 24th film as director and, yes, my favorite one. It is special in the way it is presented, old-school style with steady shots and clear cuts, avoiding special effects and editing tricks. There are no useless characters, no clichés, and it makes us want to cry. I had tears in my eyes and I don’t usually get all teary unless it’s as effective as Pacino screaming over the death of his daughter in “Godfather III.” But this movie pulled it off. It reaches the heart and then squeezes it tightly, upsets it, but slowly releases pressure as it nears its finish. Never easy to do.

It’s a tremendous film with great dialogue, a solid cast, and a legendary Oscar-winning director. The people involved with “Mystic River” knew what they had to do and what they were going to achieve. More than this, I cannot say. They got the mystical part right in the title.


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