Movie Review
Mystic River
Mystic River poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published October 12, 2003
US Release: October 8, 2003

Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Sean Penn , Tim Robbins , Kevin Bacon , Laurence Fishburne

Running Time: 137 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $90,135,000
3 of 132
One powerhouse of a film that will likely linger with the viewer long after the ending credits roll.
From the minute Mystic River began, I had a feeling I would possibly come out of the experience feeling blown away. While a few of its pieces are not as awesome as many segments, the film is one tour de force that should not be missed for anyone who has ever thought that Clint Eastwood may never make a great movie again.

One of the great beauties and surprises from this film is how much it doesn?t even feel like an Eastwood project. The director places the actors in the spotlight and allows an intense beat to linger throughout most of the two and a half-hour running time ? and some of the beat is simply through acting and silence.

Like 25th Hour (A-), Mystic River?s story centers on something small, yet the execution of that element is spread out over a long period of time. This storytelling method can work terrifically if not superbly, or it can fall completely flat. With Mystic River, the actors make the viewer care, and Eastwood?s powerhouse direction keeps the audience on their toes, making the film a gripping feature.

Based on the novel of the same name, Mystic River follows the story of three childhood friends (Jimmy, Dave, and Sean) as they?re now grown adults, with an event reuniting them. When Jimmy?s (Sean Penn) daughter is found dead, an investigation unfolds regarding the whereabouts of the incident and who may be linked. With Dave being a potential suspect on the matter, matters turn dark with what is an open-ended mystery.

Midway into Mystic River I had feared that the story was as simple as it appeared, and as screen time progressed I was very thankful that it wasn?t. Though the film did surprise me in the end and did have me on the edge of my seat in the last few scenes (let alone gasping at a few of those sequences), there were a few details that kept this project from reaching outstanding heights.

First things first, Sean Penn gives a riveting performance that cancels out the sentimental feast that was I Am Sam (C+). On the other end of that scope, part of what bothered me was Tim Robbins? performance, and I couldn?t tell whether the core of the problem was within the script, or his delivery.

Robbins carries an accent that was frustrating my nerves from the beginning, and whether or not his vague and unknown character is meant to be part of the tone and impact, he simply did not engage me all that much. While I did crave the truth behind the matters, I was always sighing in the back of my mind whenever Robbins was handed big scenes to operate.

Kevin Bacon (as Sean, one of the detectives on the case) is standing in what could very well be the standout role of his career, knocking it out of the park. Many of his scenes are very naturally done, with a few moments of pure intensity that really can open the eyes of anyone who has ever doubted his talent. I wouldn?t be surprised if Eastwood gets nominated for Best Director somewhere, along with acting nods for Penn and Bacon (how often can you include the latter?).

On the other hand, I found Laura Linney (who plays Penn?s wife) to be miscast up until the later end of the show. Until then, I didn?t think there was any reason for her to be in that role ? her performance nearing the finale is strong, but segments prior to that segment lack the reasoning of her presence.

Mystic River is almost a toss-up when coming down to an official grade to rate the feature with (B+ versus A-). The production had me tuned in thoroughly the entire way through and there were segments that were almost flawless. Alongside the few acting criticisms, one subplot involving Kevin Bacon was a story element that I found utterly useless; but since the component creates intrigue at first glance, I will not elaborate.

I came out of Mystic River having witnessed an intense thriller that was more of a human drama than an actual thrill ride, and that is part of the film?s powerful impact. The feature was sitting on the edge of being awesome, but the couple complaints I had affected my willingness to grant the film with such a terrific rating. Besides from those components, Mystic River is one powerhouse of a film that will likely linger with the viewer long after the ending credits roll.
Lee's Grade: B
Ranked #3 of 132 between Lost in Translation (#2) and Better Luck... (#4) for 2003 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'Mystic River' Articles
  • Craig's review A-
    October 17, 2003    A powerfully written, acted, and directed film that is as horrifying as it is thrilling to watch. -- Craig Younkin