We bury our sins, we wash them clean
Spencer Treat Clark
Running Time: 137 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
Its something of a rarity these days to encounter a crime movie that doesnt 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 audiences 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 directors 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. Jimmys childhood friends Sean and Dave (Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins) soon become embroiled in the case Sean because hes 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 Jimmys slightly-too-understanding missus, and Laurence Fishburne looking a tad out of shape as Seans investigative partner. Eastwoods 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). Lets just say that after finishing this review I wont be heading straight over to Amazon to hunt down the soundtrack.
More than anything this is an old-fashioned murder mystery, and Penns perpetual grimacing and neck-tensing is impressive, if emotionally exhausting. Based on Dennis Lehanes 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, youll be left reeling by its unconventional and wholly unsatisfying ending.
It's Got: A brief glimpse into Sean Penns inexplicably ginger childhood, courtesy of craggy-nosed child actor Jason Kelly.
It Needs: To do without Tim Robbins droning speech about vampires.
A solid and powerful drama thatll leave you thinking after youve left the theatre. How memorable itll be in years to come is open to question, but for now its a film to be savoured.