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Mystic River

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Mystic River

Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rated: R
RunTime: 137 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genres: Drama, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Kevin Chapman, Laura Linney, Cameron Bowen, Emmy Rossum, Ken Cheeseman, Charley Broderick

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

MYSTIC RIVER is a crime drama that's got plenty of whodunit to it, but it is in the methodically laid out character studies that the movie soars. It is so filled with extraordinary performances in even the minor roles that you hardly know where to start in discussing it -- which is the same problem that Academy voters will have when it comes to choosing this year's Oscar nominations.

Laura Linney, for example, has what, until almost the very end of the movie, appears to be a small, almost throwaway part as the wife of one the film's leads, played brilliantly by Sean Penn. But not long before the ending credits roll, she gives a dynamite short speech that shockingly explains the character whom we barely knew. Everyone in the story, based on Dennis Lehane's popular novel, has a world of hurt buried deep within them. During the movie, some of these wounds are revealed early, some later and some not at all.

In his best job as a director since UNFORGIVEN, Clint Eastwood is truly masterful in the way he devises the scenes. The stunning end to the movie is made with two simple but powerful hand gestures between Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon.

The movie starts in the past with an incident that forever traumatizes three 11-year-old boys, Jimmy, Sean, and most especially Dave. Tim Robbins (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), in his performance ever, plays the adult Dave, who is so downtrodden and emotionally scarred that his face seems to be sinking into his skull. He might have a driver's license, but he's a mental cripple who isn't effectively much older than eleven. He is the world's best father to his son. In a touching piece of acting, Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave's wife. She supports him but doesn't trust him since she is effectively married to a minor. Penn, as Jimmy, Robbins and Harden all deserve Oscar nominations as does Eastwood.

Someone is murdered -- you know who if you've seen the trailers -- which causes Sean (Kevin Bacon), a homicide detective, to go back to his old stomping grounds to investigate it. Sean has his own problems of which we only get hints. Laurence Fishburne is excellent as Whitey, Sean's partner, who provides some appreciated humor.

The story keeps us guessing as it throws out leads, some of them bogus. At a certain point in the narrative, almost everyone in the audience suddenly guesses the who and why of the murder, but there is no letdown. The movie is more about the pain of the characters and how they deal with it. One thing is certain. You'll feel a lot more pleasure than pain. Watching this phenomenal film is such a joy since it reminds you how smooth and satisfying viewing a masterfully constructed motion picture can be.

MYSTIC RIVER runs 2:20. The film is rated R for "language and violence" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Wednesday, October 15, 2003. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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