Mystic River

Movie Review #819: ‘Mystic River’ is a well-acted, somber drama that takes a giant U-turn at the end.

By Red Stewart


Crime, Drama, Mystery
Rated R (contains violence, profanity)
138 minutes

Clint Eastwood was an interesting choice for director given his background in rural westerns. I say this because “Mystic River” falls under the genre some critics have created in recent years called “Bostonian crime,” which center on suburban transgressions and the effects those have on the working class. Other movies in the category include Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”.

The film follows the lives of three friends, Jimmy Markum (Penn), Dave Boyle (Robbins), and Sean Devine (Bacon), who all experienced a traumatizing event in their childhood and have now grown distant from one another. They find themselves reunited in the aftermath of a brutal murder where the tensions and guilt built up over the years come out to haunt them.

Movies like “Mystic River” are very delicate because they rely on their complex characters to drive the plot forward over the story itself. Having honed his ability to bring out unforeseen depths in his cast, Eastwood turns the natural vygour present in Penn, Robbins, and Marcia Harden into riveting performances, fueling Dennis Lehane’s characters with a dark energy that fits the film’s dismal tone. Eastwood paints the entire picture with this grayish palette to emphasize the depressive settings, much like Zack Snyder did with “Man of Steel”, but the most interesting decision on Eastwood’s part is his storytelling method. “Mystic River” starts off with this surreal back story, but soon descends into a visceral drama in the present, creating a hybrid climate that makes for some absorbing scenes.

Sadly, an outstanding film needs to end with a strong third act, and in that regard “Mystic River” falters similar to “Django Unchained”. No plot points will be given away, but let’s just say the climax feels so out of place with what the narrative had been working up to. All these themes of remorse and sorrow are thrown out for what seems like shock value over a genuinely binding conclusion.

Overall, “Mystic River”‘s status as a must-see, Oscar-worthy mystery film may be more attributable to Clint Eastwood’s name than the narrative itself. However, as I said with “Non-Stop”, if you prefer a story’s buildup over its payoff, then you’ll love “Mystic River”.


2 thoughts on “Mystic River

    • To be honest, I interpreted Linney as being the antithesis to Harden. Whereas the latter was a wife who didn’t trust her husband and went behind his back, leading to his death, Linney was loyal and stuck by Penn through the end.

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