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Overall Rating
3.73

Awesome39.11%
Worth A Look: 20.3%
Just Average: 20.79%
Pretty Crappy: 14.36%
Sucks: 5.45%

12 reviews, 130 user ratings


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Mystic River
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by Robert Flaxman

"Good but not good."
3 stars

Mystic River, the latest film from Clint Eastwood, is an example of what is generally called “elevating the material.” The story is pretty rote – a simple whodunit with a couple blind alleys thrown into the mix – and the “catch” is not exactly mind-blowing. The father of the murdered girl, the detective, and the prime suspect were all friends as kids. Whoa, slow down!

Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) were friends back in the early 70s when a couple of men pretending to be cops forced Dave into their car. They held him for four days before he finally escaped, and he hasn’t been the same since. We know this because the story is told both by the adult Sean and in an infuriatingly didactic sequence at the beginning of the film, clips from which are inserted into scenes in which the adult Dave gets a spacey look and then shakes his head distractedly. Eastwood might as well have the actors hold up signs that say “remember this part” as they talk.

That’s the first problem with Mystic River – even as a pretty conventional plot unfolds, Eastwood’s direction is heavy-handed, leading the viewer along as though the target audience was four-year-olds. Overly-expository dialogue and slow zooms in on troubled faces make sure the audience sees what Eastwood feels it needs to see, as though following the plot would really be a difficult ordeal without the signposts.

In what comes as a great relief, though, Eastwood eases up after the first half hour or so and actually lets the film run its course. Rather than dictating exactly what to follow, he lets the actors and Brian Helgeland’s script do the talking, only stepping in to add atmosphere and to ratchet up the tension in the film’s final act. The cuts back and forth between two confrontations that both have to do with Jimmy’s daughter’s death are nothing less than masterworks of editing, switching between the two scenes at exactly the right moments.

Letting the actors have their way is a good idea, because the cast is top-shelf. Penn, Bacon, and Robbins are all superb, as are Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden as Bacon’s partner and Robbins’ wife. Eastwood doesn’t need to be obvious when he’s got actors of this caliber, who are capable of conveying the emotion of a scene on their faces and through body language. Along with Helgeland’s dialogue, they keep the fairly simple plot chugging for 137 minutes that manage not to drag.

But just when you thought Mystic River had saved itself after a rough start, there is a second, more major problem. While the film pulls itself together technically, it is never quite clear where its moral compass is centered, and in the final act the arrow flies totally out of control. It’s difficult to really discuss this without totally giving the ending away, but I’ll make an effort.

Laura Linney (playing Jimmy’s wife Annabeth) has a speech at the end of the film that is so wildly inappropriate from a moral standpoint that the film seems to be daring the audience to believe that it’s endorsing her words. Annabeth’s logic is that nothing a person does is wrong as long as their motivation is legitimate, a repulsive response to the action in the film’s final half hour. Jimmy is let off the hook both by Annabeth and, more disturbingly, by Sean, who seems only too happy to ignore Jimmy’s unspoken but obvious transgression. The “love is all you need, and who cares about death” finale is one of the most sickening things that has ever attempted to pass for insight in Hollywood. (One alternative explanation is that the film is actually holding Annabeth up for disdain. I didn't find the circunstantial evidence to substantiate this idea, however.)

Technically speaking and from an acting standpoint, Mystic River is probably about as solid a film as there will be all year. The message it backs, however, is the wrong one. The film seems to want to ask questions, but the only answer it bothers to reveal is that actions don't have consequences as long as you're a tough guy.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8240&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/11/04 04:07:53
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good & haunting film 4 stars
9/11/15 misterfilms poor films. i'm glad Academy gave LOTR Best Picture 1 stars
1/24/14 Simon Sleek direction& raw acting, but too deliberate&muddled. Awful end w/Linney's 'king' speech 3 stars
2/24/12 brian poor cinema tography, crap screenplay. disjointed,over dramatic Penn. .need i say more 2 stars
12/28/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Great movie by a great director. 5 stars
11/19/09 Jeff Wilder Eastwood's best film as a director. 5 stars
9/30/08 PAUL SHORTT SHOWS YOU CAN PILE ON A LOT OF FREIGHT AND STILL END UP WITH A BARGE 2 stars
9/27/07 mr.mike good mystery/thriller. Robbins is a stand-out. 4 stars
9/07/06 Thomas Semesky Predictable. There are better movies from 2003 worth seeing. 3 stars
8/25/06 cpbjr very good 4 stars
6/24/06 MP Bartley The more you see it, the more artificiality becomes apparent. Still packs a punch though. 4 stars
12/31/05 Tanya Sean penn is always great in his movies 4 stars
12/20/05 Carolyn Rathburn Very deep movie, impressed with Penn's performance 4 stars
12/08/05 Frank Rountree This movie was a disappointment, it didn't live up to it's billing 2 stars
9/20/05 Indrid Cold Seems like the point is to give Penn scenes where he can cry and show off his chops. 3 stars
9/12/05 ray mero Mystic seems a mighty muddy river and movie. 1 stars
9/09/05 Alex what a stupid idea! and should i move out of boston? 1 stars
8/18/05 ES Good movie, no idea what it was trying to say at the very end 4 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Penn as Brando-not, overacted,over praised,just over. 3 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler Impossible to ignore the fine performances of sean penn and tim robbins in this one. 5 stars
6/23/05 sally angwin everything that clint touches turns to gold 4 stars
6/12/05 Charlene Javier Hated it the first time. Loved loved loved it the second time. 5 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands such a great movie. One of the biggest stand-outs of Clint's career. 5 stars
3/25/05 Denise great 4 stars
3/23/05 Michael Lloyd a very emotional film, shouldve won best picture 5 stars
3/18/05 Messina Great movie if you like being hit over the head. 1 stars
3/03/05 jeff very predictble, nothing special. 3 stars
2/16/05 Daveman Superbly acted with muscular direction from Eastwood, lacked dramatic cohesion though. 4 stars
2/11/05 Aimee Shelton Very intense and well-acted. Superb film-making! 5 stars
2/05/05 Susan Chamberlain I kept watching even though I didn't want to. 4 stars
2/01/05 Alice Colwell Good movie 5 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg yuck...still can't figure out what the hype is about. 2 stars
1/31/05 Christy Harris Very "who done it?" loved trying to figure out 5 stars
1/29/05 Frank Tells good movie 4 stars
1/29/05 Christine An excellent movie and the acting was first-rate 5 stars
1/28/05 Carolyn Rathburn This film was too intense for me, well acted, but not my cup of tea. 4 stars
1/15/05 Charlene Javier Loved it the second time around! 4 stars
1/13/05 Barry Taylor It was a good movie with a twist at the end but nothing special 3 stars
1/06/05 ewen Brilliant! 5 stars
12/30/04 Tjalda L. Schiel Over acted, over rated clap trap. 2 stars
12/27/04 juliana sadock savino bravo to eastwood for the score. it was at once unobtrusive & essential 5 stars
12/22/04 Michael OConnor Phenomenal Acting!!! 5 stars
12/15/04 PHIL M. AFICIONADO Riveting and moody, with a sad story to tell through excellent acting 5 stars
12/12/04 Landshark A parade of irony, hypocrisy & fate? Nope, just sound & fury signifying nothing. 3 stars
11/23/04 Geoff Brilliant movie. Great direction by Eastwood (musical score too) and performances from all 5 stars
11/22/04 Carly Austin Sean Penn is brilliant, as is every aspect of this movie. Watch Marcia Gay Harden too. 5 stars
11/11/04 jellica sean is really increadable 5 stars
10/31/04 shell Sean Penn was good, as ever, but this is a seriously flawed movie. Murray was ROBBED. 3 stars
9/26/04 alicia left me breathless 5 stars
9/14/04 R. Block Worst part: why throw in that scene w/ Penn IDing his daughter's body? Trite. 4 stars
8/16/04 Peter James Proves in a way that A Beautiful Mind did that great acting can make a movie amazing 5 stars
8/05/04 Chris a truly remarkable film. acting was amazing and story was powerful and emotional.very good 5 stars
8/04/04 ownerofdajoint PENN GIVES AN INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE.MOVIE SHOWS HOW SOME ARE DOOMED FROM THE GET-GO! 5 stars
7/27/04 Mike Devans very well done. 4 stars
7/23/04 Jannet Kwan This is a somewhat confusing movie. 3 stars
7/20/04 Harry J No story? Pay attention. Almost awesome. A really good story. 4 stars
7/15/04 Joe Smaltz good acting no story 2 stars
7/15/04 Glen Dean I didn't like the way Jimmy gets away with murder. 2 stars
7/11/04 Monster W. Kung Overrated crud. Good acting doesn't make up for muddled plot and loathsome 'moral'. 2 stars
7/11/04 Phil M. Aficionado EricDSnider speaks for me on this one; and, really really good acting is the key. 4 stars
7/08/04 JME No car crashes? Oh yeah, this isn't typical Hollywood schlock. 5 stars
7/07/04 Denise great plot 5 stars
6/28/04 Len Good movie worth watching 5 stars
6/25/04 Alex Robbins is superb, Penn is woefully overacting. All too dark to be worth a go 2 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Really good, Clint done good!! Very depressing though. 5 stars
6/19/04 elizaveta mesmerizing performances, truly surprising in the outcome, all too human 5 stars
6/12/04 Kooler Sloppy storytelling, & Penn nearly chokes on the scenery. Death to method actors! 3 stars
6/11/04 Shawn Great movie. Makes you think. 5 stars
6/10/04 Butterbean Climax was unnecessarily long. Screw Penn, Robbins outshine everyone. 4 stars
4/09/04 Vince Chan Excellent acting, plot was a bit thin in some spots.. long movie! 4 stars
4/07/04 jscrapple huge holes in the plot and nonsensical ending 2 stars
3/23/04 Chloe Brody This was fucking awesome - Penn finally got an Oscar that he really deserves... 5 stars
3/10/04 brett this movie blows. it left me wondering why i spent money on it 2 stars
3/08/04 Blaine Holloway oh yes im getting that!!!!! 2003: 3rd only to return of the king and last samurai! 5 stars
3/08/04 Wendranh Sean Penn...grown up 4 stars
3/06/04 C. Hernandez Not that great. Kevin Bacon's personal storyline seemed like an afterthought. 3 stars
3/06/04 movieboy Awesome the acting made this movie and what a intersting plot had me guessing to the end 5 stars
2/23/04 rhett the acting was so bad, if i wasn't with my girlfriend i would have left half way through 2 stars
2/22/04 Christopher Klejdys Man, I liked this movie...but the last 15 munutes were a disaster. 4 stars
2/11/04 Obi Wan Over-rated Penn Oscar talks for his IAS Snub...ending felt rushed...wait for Rental 3 stars
2/08/04 Gretchen Seitz Ray Jr. didn't kill Kate! He was covering for his creepy mama! Otherwise awesome. 4 stars
2/02/04 Jin Borrows heavily from Sleepers and In the Bedroom; both are better. 4 stars
1/29/04 timothy briant 2 star film with 5 star actors ,dissapointing quick ending for such an intricate plot . 2 stars
1/29/04 Seb Sloppy: dad and son play wiffle ball in a yard that's about 5 feet long. Duh. 2 stars
1/24/04 124 should win many academy awards 5 stars
1/24/04 vikram the master at work again 5 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody Wow! Sean Penn gets more amazing with each film! 5 stars
1/15/04 Ralph R. Clemente Great film and great acting. Bravo Mr. Eastwood 5 stars
1/08/04 Matt Fairly ok up until the truly awful ending. Trite and forced and consequently harms the film 3 stars
1/02/04 Admiral Piett Sean Penn sucks donkey balls. 1 stars
1/02/04 A F Ending dragged too long. I liked most of it, but you need to know when you should END! 4 stars
12/29/03 ownerofdajoint one of the greatest movies in the last ten years;don't miss it! 5 stars
12/29/03 Chlo This movie was so fucking brilliant...tell me - why hasn't Sean Penn won an Oscar yet? 5 stars
12/20/03 jj yes 5 stars
12/15/03 Buck Neilson incongruous 1 stars
12/13/03 G.W.B (lets bomb the world) JNR Go ahead make my day. Oh you just did!! 5 stars
12/08/03 Agent Sands Impressively shot, with great acting, strong, tight directing, good music, & good writing. 5 stars
12/06/03 admiral piett Sean Penn is in it. Enough said. 1 stars
11/28/03 DM Why do we let retards like Edler onto this site? 4 stars
11/28/03 jeff get real! it's an excellent film 5 stars
11/25/03 Fern Jones Brilliant 5 stars
11/23/03 John Bale Eastwood's film masterpiece with superb cast and craftmanship 5 stars
11/20/03 Helen Bradley Great script, pace,actors & directing 5 stars
11/19/03 boxcar anyone who didnt like this movie sucks 5 stars
11/18/03 Edler Sucked shit out of a baboon's ass. 2 stars
11/13/03 Sean Movie Critic Predictable, Long....but overall good story behind it. 4 stars
11/12/03 ownerofdajoint this is truly an awesome movie 5 stars
11/10/03 Jod Forget "Bridges of Madison County", Eastwood directs a masterpiece. 5 stars
11/06/03 Cameron Slick The strongest film of the year with several amazing performances, quite a perplexing film. 5 stars
11/03/03 John I want my money back 1 stars
11/02/03 Suzz Overrated. I read the book; film lacked power and surprise. 3 stars
11/02/03 malcolm Penn does his best DeNiro; what a cast! 3 stars
11/02/03 carly seen "sleepers" much? this has all been done before. total pap bullshit. 2 stars
11/02/03 Doc Terrible. A full hour too long; terrible editing; flat characters; SLOW, DULL, BORING! 1 stars
10/30/03 melvyn masterful....well cast...psychological depth. 5 stars
10/26/03 Brent Great fillm, a must see for film lovers 5 stars
10/26/03 Edler Dumb story. Lots of pretentious scenes. Resolution of the mystery bites. 3 stars
10/25/03 Heather Drowning in Grief and Murky Waters 2 stars
10/20/03 Will Oscar worthy effort, Great acting and taulty directed. 5 stars
10/20/03 Grzmlyk Most overrated acting and direction since "Philadelphia." Not one believeable moment. 1 stars
10/20/03 David Great Show, here's to more films with unanswered questions when the lights come up! 4 stars
10/20/03 Vince Yeah. 3 stars
10/19/03 blue i loved it 5 stars
10/19/03 R.W. Welch Expert direction and acting. Plot line has a couple weak spots. 4 stars
10/19/03 Graham Film of the year so far 5 stars
10/18/03 john wonderful acting and story without the pat, trite stuff ya sometimes see in 'who done its' 5 stars
10/17/03 Nunzeo aweful. people actually got up and left. major disappointment 1 stars
10/16/03 Justin C. Ayd This picture had absolute perfect direction, the acting, it was amazing. 5 stars
10/15/03 lycan better than Blood Work, but then, most movies are... 3 stars
10/10/03 Wendy Read the book and it was phenomenal. See the movie. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jun-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Nov-2003




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