a critiQal film review Mystic River (2003)

Plot: Sean, Dave and Jimmy are childhood friends when Dave is kidnapped. He escapes after four days, and they lose touch with each other. Years later, Jimmy (Penn), Dave (Robbins) and Sean (Bacon) all lead separate lives. But they are all brought back into each other's lives by the murder of Jimmy's daughter.

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  • ...director Eastwood falters, delivering a film so predictable it almost makes the viewer watch anyway, just hoping they don't already know the twists and turns that are coming - but they do.

When Heather and I went to Blockbuster®, I was shocked when she wanted to see Mystic River. After all, she’s never really been into Clint Eastwood directed movies. She’s never seen the other films he’s directed, and doesn’t want to.

I’ve seen Unforgiven (1992) and A Perfect World, so definitely wanted to see his latest. Plus, with the rave reviews people were giving this film, it couldn’t be any less than terrific. So, in other words, I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to rent Mystic River.

Sean Penn has been getting a lot of hype in recent years, starting with his role in Dead Man Walking. I’m not really sure why the sudden interest in him again, but he’s probably enjoying it.

For me, his best role is still the part he played in Donnie Brasco. It seemed to be almost a perfect performance from him, and nothing I’ve seen since has matched it (just to let you know, I haven’t seen Dead Man Walking yet).

His acting in Mystic River is again a little bit below his best, but that may be because of the character he’s been given. He’s at his best here when he’s reminiscing about his daughter, and seems to try to get through the rest of the film just to reach those scenes.

Kevin Bacon, on the other hand, has toned down his zaniness in recent years, and coming out looking better because of it. He’s shed his 80’s persona, and turned into quite an actor (his performance in JFK (1991) was astonishing). He and Laurence Fishburne team up well together as cops in Mystic River, and seem to make pretty good partners.

Laurence, apparently trying to shake his Morpheus persona from The Matrix (1999), seems to be pretty subdued in this film, and isn’t really given a great deal to do.

Now, on to Tim Robbins. It seems he has already passed his glory days, and knows it. He has never really played a character as convincingly as he did in The Player (1992), and he seems to be aware of it. He used to try to again achieve that brilliance, but he seems to have started giving up. He still tries, but only in a halfhearted sort of way.

He comes off in Mystic River as confused (which fits into the plot somewhat), but his acting is confusing in and of itself, and the whole combination just disinterests the viewer a little bit.

The plot was good, but Clint faltered big time in his directing of Mystic River – and in approving the script. The storyline is too straightforward for today’s audiences. True, there are a few twists and turns, but Clint errs a bit much on the side of caution. It’s almost because you aren’t given any hints about them, you know it’s going to happen.

The audience is used to twists and turns, and now expects them in this type of movie. It’s like giving the audience the choice between A or B, then telling them from the beginning that it’s A. Now, some people may believe that, but I’m not one of them. If the movie is pushing me into choosing A, I’m going to wonder why. Why give us the answer in the beginning of the film? How will knowing that affect our interest in the movie? It’ll decrease it, and the directors know it, so obviously the real answer is B. See what I’m getting at?

It’s a bit confusing, but will make more sense after you see the film.

Clint Eastwood usually has a story to tell in his own unique way. What can you point to out there that’s similar to Unforgiven (1992) or A Perfect World? Not much, just imitators. Those films are amazingly new and refreshing looks at old ideas.

Mystic River just doesn’t match up. It’s so predictable it almost makes the viewer watch anyway, just hoping you don’t already know the twists and turns that are coming. But you do, and you feel a bit cheated, knowing how see-through the film actually is. The characters aren’t fleshed out very much at all, the ending is wrapped up neatly (and haphazardly)…and the film goes through a couple of useless scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Again, Mystic River is a case of a movie receiving awards, and I don’t know why (see Monster’s Ball (2001)). It’s nothing compared to Eastwood’s other directing stints, and it doesn’t bring out outstanding performances from any of it’s cast.

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