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Mystic River (2003)

We bury our sins, we wash them clean

Directed by:

Clint EastwoodClint Eastwood

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 137 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

It’s something of a rarity these days to encounter a crime movie that doesn’t batter you across the face with one unlikely twist after another, whilst simultaneously forcing an unfathomable number of characters and contrivances down your throat. ‘Mystic River’, to its immense credit, replaces such unsavoury aspects with some good, solid story-telling. For any film expecting to hold its audience’s attention for well over two hours – as this one does – such a quality is virtually a must.

Clint Eastwood, in quite possibly his finest stint in a director’s chair yet, brings together a fine ensemble of serious actor-types for this intense tale of grief and how some deeply-troubled characters handle it. Sean Penn, not a man you generally tend to associate with great movies, delivers the goods in spades as Jimmy, the ex-con turned family man whose life is torn apart when daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) is found brutally murdered. Jimmy’s childhood friends Sean and Dave (Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins) soon become embroiled in the case – Sean because he’s the detective given the job of investigating it, and Dave because he soon emerges as the chief suspect.

Sturdy support is provided by the likes of Laura Linney as Jimmy’s slightly-too-understanding missus, and Laurence Fishburne looking a tad out of shape as Sean’s investigative partner. Eastwood’s painstaking dedication to the project shines through as always, though I have to admit I remain unconvinced by his musical capabilities (as well as directing, he penned the score for this one). Let’s just say that after finishing this review I won’t be heading straight over to Amazon to hunt down the soundtrack.

More than anything this is an old-fashioned murder mystery, and Penn’s perpetual grimacing and neck-tensing is impressive, if emotionally exhausting. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, it manages to intrigue whilst never appearing overly-complicated, unnecessarily confusing or pretentious. And, once the pieces of the puzzle have finished falling gradually into place, you’ll be left reeling by its unconventional and wholly unsatisfying ending.

It's Got: A brief glimpse into Sean Penn’s inexplicably ginger childhood, courtesy of craggy-nosed child actor Jason Kelly.

It Needs: To do without Tim Robbins’ droning speech about vampires.

Alternatives:

A Perfect World, Copycat, Dark Blue, The General's Daughter

Summary

A solid and powerful drama that’ll leave you thinking after you’ve left the theatre. How memorable it’ll be in years to come is open to question, but for now it’s a film to be savoured.

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