River, Dir: Clint Eastwood - Cert: 15
is a story of three childhood friends brought back together after a gruesome
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 Hollywoods
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 Carlitos
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
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
Katies grieving boyfriend. Tom Guiry is, quite simply, magnificent
and I sincerely hope his depiction of Markums 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 its difficult to care much about the outcome of
those scenes. Not to mention that they are a little confusing too.
Still, this is Clint Eastwoods 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 havent seen Dave Boyle in 25 years.
I dont think Im giving anything away by saying that, so dont
accuse me of spoiling anything!
In summary, this is a gripping and absorbing drama, but if I were you,
Id walk out once youve heard the aforementioned dialogue and
take that as the end. 9/10