Film reviews

Mystic River, Dir: Clint Eastwood - Cert: 15

This is a story of three childhood friends brought back together after a gruesome tragedy.

I always approach star studded films such as this with a certain amount of trepidation. Sometimes they turn out to be absolute gems (“Glengarry Glen Ross”, “Ed Wood”) but more often than not we are presented with a two ton turkey that even Bernard Matthews would turn his nose up at (“Batman and Robin” for example). Thankfully, on this occasion, the former applies. The coalition of forces from some of Hollywood’s finest players results in such an intensely powerful motion picture that the 2004 Academy Awards are almost a foregone conclusion.

Sean Penn, already a severely underrated actor (see “Carlito’s Way”, “U-Turn”, “Dead Man Walking”), gives the performance of a lifetime in his portrayal of Jimmy Markum, an ex-con whose teenage daughter Katie is found brutally murdered the night before she was due to leave for a new life with her boyfriend Brendan (Tom Guiry).

The focus then turns to Dave Boyle, played to tremendous effect by the always excellent Tim Robbins, who returns home to his wife at 2am with his hands covered in blood the exact same morning that Katie went missing. Of course, this, along with his lame excuse that he “got into a fight with a mugger” and thinks he “may have accidentally killed him” only serves to enhance his status as prime suspect number one, especially as his wife keeps reminding him that “there was nothing in the paper about it”.

Early on in the film, we learn of the physical abuse Dave suffered as a child, and the still apparent emotional scarring really sets him up as a sitting duck. But did he REALLY carry out the grisly crime?

Whilst Penn and Robbins deserve to be (and indeed would be major surprises if they are not) nominated for possible Oscars, it is perhaps one of the lesser known cast members who delivers the most remarkable showpiece as Katie’s grieving boyfriend. Tom Guiry is, quite simply, magnificent and I sincerely hope his depiction of Markum’s hated would be son-in-law is not overlooked when it comes down to drawing up a shortlist.

A strong supporting cast, including Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden amongst others, all contribute fine performances themselves to make for one of the bravest, most emotive and memorable movies I have witnessed in some time. That said, this is no picnic, and the more malignant of critics would perhaps complain that “Mystic River” is overlong and too depressing for its own good. Whilst I would concede that it is certainly heavy going in some places, I felt that the difficult subject matter was dealt with in a suitably delicate and compassionate manner.

However, my only real beef with this excellent picture is with the last five minutes (largely those involving Laura Linney), which are ostensibly tacked on to tie up any loose ends that remain after we have discovered the true identity of the killer. The one problem with this is that these lingering threads were only a very peripheral part of the movie in the first place and it’s difficult to care much about the outcome of those scenes. Not to mention that they are a little confusing too.

Still, this is Clint Eastwood’s best directorial effort since “Unforgiven” – possibly even bettering it – but I think most cinemagoers will be with me when I suggest that the movie should have finished with the utterance of the line “I haven’t seen Dave Boyle in 25 years”. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that, so don’t accuse me of spoiling anything!

In summary, this is a gripping and absorbing drama, but if I were you, I’d walk out once you’ve heard the aforementioned dialogue and take that as the end. 9/10


Tone E


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