The lives of three men who were childhood friends are shattered when one of them has a family tragedy.
- Jimmy Markum: Sean Penn
- Dave Boyle: Tim Robbins
- Sean Devine: Kevin Bacon
- Sergeant Whitey Powers: Laurence Fishburne
- Celeste Boyle: Marcia Gay Harden
- Annabeth Markum: Laura Linney
- Val Savage: Kevin Chapman
- Brendan Harris: Tom Guiry
- Katie Markum: Emmy Rossum
- Silent Ray Harris: Spencer Treat Clark
- John O’Shea: Andrew Mackin
- Nick Savage: Adam Nelson
- Kevin Savage: Robert Wahlberg
- Esther Harris: Jenny O’Hara
- Driver: John Doman
- Young Dave: Cameron Bowen
- Young Jimmy: Jason Kelly
- Young Sean: Connor Paolo
- Jimmy’s Father: T. Bruce Page
- Sean’s Father: Miles Herter
- Michael Boyle: Cayden Boyd
- Lauren Devine: Tori Davis
- Pete: Jonathan Togo
- Bar Patron: John Franchi
- Communion priest: Ed O’Keefe
- Funeral Director: Shawn Fitzgibbon
- FBI Agent Birden: Will Lyman
- Nadine Markum: Celine du Tertre
- Eve Pigeon: Ari Graynor
- Diane Cestra: Zabeth Russell
- Drew Pigeon: Joe Stapleton
- Mrs. Prior: Susan Willis
- CSS Tech: Tom Kemp
- Trooper Jenny Coughlin: Celeste Oliva
- Handcuffed Man: Patrick Shea
- ’75 Reporter: Michael McGovern
- Mr. Loonie (uncredited): Eli Wallach
- Theo (uncredited): Kevin Conway
- Communion Child (uncredited): Mackenzie Hawe
- Boston Cop (uncredited): Colleen Kelly
- Shopper (uncredited): Stephen Kyle
- Police Detective (uncredited): Frank Ridley
- Spectator (uncredited): Kris Williams
- Sara Markum (uncredited): Jillian Wheeler
- Bartender (uncredited): Lance Norris
- Original Music Composer: Clint Eastwood
- Production Design: Henry Bumstead
- Editor: Joel Cox
- Casting: Phyllis Huffman
- Art Direction: Jack G. Taylor Jr.
- Director of Photography: Tom Stern
- Costume Design: Deborah Hopper
- Executive Producer: Bruce Berman
- Author: Dennis Lehane
- Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
- Producer: Judie Hoyt
- Producer: Robert Lorenz
- Set Decoration: Richard C. Goddard
- Casting Associate: Olivia Harris
- Wuchak: ***Evils of the past and the problems with vigilante justice***
Released in 2003 and directed by Clint Eastwood, “Mystic River” tells the story of three men from a working class neighborhood in Boston. While playing in the street as kids, one of them is abducted and sexually abused for days. As adults they’ve drifted apart. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is a reformed con who runs a successful market when his daughter is suddenly murdered (Emmy Rossum). Sean (Kevin Bacon) investigates the murder with his partner, Whitey (Laurence Fishburne), with evidence eventually pointing toward Dave (Timothy Bottoms), the one who was abducted. Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave’s anxious spouse while Laura Linney plays Jimmy’s loyal wife.
This is similar in tone & theme to the melancholy “Sleepers” (1996), but less episodic and more dramatically gripping. The movie has the confidence to take its time and flesh-out the characters. It’s a psychological crime drama that works as both a whodunit and a tragedy. The intrinsic problems of vigilante justice are cogently illustrated.
Some people have misinterpreted the movie because they missed some things. For instance, they criticize the curious Lady Macbeth-like monologue of Annabeth (Linney) at the end. But watch the movie again, pay close attention, and the answers are there. I’d say more, but I don’t want to give anything away (you’re welcome to write me if you’d like some insights).
“Mystic River” is not something that can be casually watched; it’s a deep drama with three-dimensional characters, potently exploring several intriguing issues: How abuses of the past affect the present; the danger of hiding recesses of your psyche; the folly of not getting spiritual help for deep-rooted psychological concerns; disloyalty/loyalty; doing the wrong thing for the right reasons; jumping to wrong conclusions based on dubious info; houses divided cannot stand; the importance of encouraging one’s spouse for the sake of familial health & survival; “king of the castle”; etc.
The film runs 2 hours, 18 minutes and was shot in Boston.
- The Movie Diorama: Mystic River continuously outflows its poignant crime investigation through a meticulously gritty screenplay. The past haunts us. Experiences and encounters, grossly susceptible and an impressionably young age, returning viciously with psychological detriments. A naive boy that just didn’t know any better. Abducted. An unresolved mystery that manifested itself into an intricately societal Massachusetts neighbourhood, where one disturbance can erupt into a multitude of hatred from the cold concrete beneath them.
A father’s daughter mercilessly murdered in the streets that he, and his two ex-friends, played hockey in. Anguish. Guilt. Vengeance. His childhood pals, one assigned the task of searching for the killer and the other forced into battling his own justifications for not murdering her, sending their condolences to the grieving father. Yet, Mystic River refuses to tell a simple crime drama. Eastwood, with his insatiably concise attention to the screenplay, elevated the mystery by providing an illustration of emotive complexity. One that many inflict upon themselves. Torment. These three individuals, with one visibly undergoing traumatic bewilderment, exhume indications of self-torment.
Mystic River does not flow water. The elaborate dialogue is too viscous for the aqueous substance. Rather, it flows blood. Bacon’s detective role combating his duties as a justice seeker, that with the liabilities of adolescent friendship. Determining the fate of neighbours within his hands. Robbins’ psychologically damaged husband role, fabricating stories to protect his moral high ground. And Penn’s award-winning performance as the father, embroiled in a plethora of intense emotions that express the full journey of bereavement. As separate souls, these three give life to Helgeland’s script that, whilst frequently becomes overwrought with unnecessary conversations that repeat earlier information, undeniably captivates with its foundational strength in investigation building.
Eastwood takes a differing approach. Instead of the classic yet saturated “who dunnit!?” narrative structure, he settled for displaying the mechanisms of detective fieldwork. Composing a timeline but questioning witnesses and suspects. Revisiting evidence to accurately imagine the murder as it happened. See, Mystic River works not for its “twists” and “turns” so to speak, but for its richly developed characters and constant focus on the investigation itself. The sensational performances, acute direction and gritty aesthetics provide the script with leverage. It exposes the rawness of the situation beautifully. Not to mention the exquisite pacing that made two and half hours flow by quicker than a hockey stick crashing down a raging waterfall.
The conclusion should’ve been tighter, with Eastwood diminishing much of the staying power by unnecessarily extending its resolution. By simply ending on Jimmy and Sean coming to terms with what’s just happened, it enables the shock of its ending to simmer much more violently than Linney exclaiming how everyone else is weak compared to her and her husband.
So whilst not perfect, Eastwood adapts Lehane’s novel with a sense of emotional urgency. Once the grit settles in, it never lets up, taking you on a roaring ride down a river of torment.
- r96sk: Excellent!
I’m not fully sold on the ending, though it isn’t anything less than good either way, but the rest of ‘Mystic River’ is quality. The cast are superb, whether that be the main trio of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon or the supporting Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden. Bacon and Fishburne make for a terrific buddy cop duo, miles better than director Clint Eastwood’s attempt with Charlie Sheen in the former’s 1990 release ‘The Rookie‘.
The conclusion does I guess go in line with what precedes it, particularly with Robbins’ character, but I’m not fully convinced by who is eventually unveiled as you know what. That’s not to say it’s a bad end, as noted at the top, as it’s still entertaining no matter what.