Mystic River


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"Sean Penn is mightier than the sword! Kevin Bacon sizzles! Tim Robbins is robbin' the vault of good acting and making a fast getaway! Um...Laurence Fishburne grills his trout a bit too long. And Marcia Gay Harden...didn't...ah, forget it."



Mystic River
The Masked Reviewer

Clint Eastwood is a very large man, known for films where he blew away people with very large guns.  With that in mind, the Masked Reviewer set out to review Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort, Mystic River

Presumably, there's a Mystic River near Boston.  The Masked Reviewer couldn't be bothered to look it up, it seemed like a strange thing to lie about in a movie.  If you're going to make a movie where you lie about things, why lie about the name of a river?  People like to see places they recognize, so why not use an actual river?  And besides, wasn't there a movie called Mystic Pizza?  That was probably set in the same place.  Or nearby.  Or maybe not.  Who cares? 

Anyway, Mystic River is Clint Eastwood's latest directing project.  It stars many big names, including Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney.  If you like movies directed by Clint Eastwood with lots of big names, this could be the movie for you.

The high point is undoubtedly the acting.  Sean Penn gives an Oscar(tm) worthy performance.  He's believable, moving, and interesting.  Tim Robbins also gives a great (and creepy) performance.  Kevin Bacon delivers a solid performance, though his character isn't as fleshed out as the others, he becomes more of a plot device than a character that drives the story.  The film revolves mostly around Penn and Robbins, though all of the supporting actors do a great job.  Marcia Gay Harden is noteworthy too, especially if you like nervous twitchy performances.

The story is fine.  It's interesting, though things start off a bit slowly.  Toward the end of the film, things pick up and it gets tense and holds your attention.  Unfortunately, the film sputters a bit at the very end.  It's one of those films that end, then things keep happening, then it ends again, then something else happen, and it ends a third time.  If they'd chopped a few minutes off the end, it would've been tighter and less anti-climactic, but because Sean Penn's character is so compelling, you won't mind much.

As far as thrillers go, it's not revolutionary.  It's not as surprising as it could be, and many people (including the Masked Reviewer) had everything figured out much too soon.  It also falls victim to the problem that some thrillers make of not giving the audience all of the information they need to figure out what happened.  You know, you're following all the clues and listening to every word that's spoken, and then in the last scene they explain what's happening and new evidence is introduced.  Kind of cheap.

But, even with its shortcomings, Mystic River is good, largely due to Sean Penn's great acting.

Strangely, the last scene with Sean Penn and Laura Linney (which is one of those scenes that happens after the movie should've ended) you get the strange feeling that Laura Linney had something to do with the nefarious goings-on.  Now, this won't ruin anything for you, because she didn't, and there's no implication at all that she did, and in fact her character doesn't really appear much at all.  By the point this scene occurs, you know everything, the movie's over, but it's an unusual scene.  Maybe it's a set-up for Mystic River II: the Re-Explanation where they'll change the outcome.  Like they did in the movie version of the board game  Clue.

There's also a great appearance of an actor in the film that took the Masked Reviewer several minutes to recognize.  For those of you who want to be surprised, AVERT YOUR EYES NOW and don't read the rest of this paragraph.  Just skip ahead.  Really.  It's unlikely to ruin any big surprises for you, but as you know the Masked Reviewer has a strict policy of not ruining movies for people, and some people love to go in cold.  So, stop reading right now.  Or, if you saw the film and have no idea what the Masked Reviewer is talking about , read on.  Eli Wallach is in the film.  He plays the liquor store owner, Mr. Looney.  He isn't credited, but it's him.  If you don't know who he is, he played Tuco (the Ugly) in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood.   He's 88 years old, and it's great to see him. 

All right, welcome back, those of you that averted your eyes.  So, who will like Mystic River?  If you like interesting character studies or mild thrillers that are more about the characters than they are about the plot twists, Mystic River is for you.  If you enjoy Sean Penn, he's at his best here.  If you like Tim Robbins, he also gives one of his best performances.  If you enjoy the directing prowess of Clint Eastwood, this is probably most similar to Blood Work (2002) in terms of mood.  Clint Eastwood has directed a number of good films, and this is one of them.  There's not a lot of action in this one, so don't go in expecting Heartbreak Ridge (1986). 

Sean Penn is mightier than the sword!  Kevin Bacon sizzles!  Tim Robbins is robbin' the vault of good acting and making a fast getaway!  Um...Laurence Fishburne grills his trout a bit too long.  And Marcia Gay Harden...didn't...ah, forget it.

Expectation from the Title: Before becoming a successful child actor, River Phoenix worked as a traveling psychic reader.  This is his (kinda) true story.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  It's always nice to see people pulling together to help each other.

The Pros: Fabulous acting, interesting premise.

The Cons: A bit too predictable, a few cheap tricks to resolve things quickly.


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