Director Clint Eastwood's new film is a whodunit, police procedural that releases more testosterone in its two hours and seventeen minutes running time than a whole season's episodes of "The Sopranos." Oh, just another typical good-guy-blows-away-bad-guy Eastwood flick, you say? Not on your life. "Mystic River" is so very much more than any of that.
It is not possible to say who is best in this film. They're all just right and Right On as three boyhood friends, grown up. There's Sean Penn as Jimmy Markum, the father who agonizes over his nineteen-year-old daughter's murder; there's Kevin Bacon as Sean Devine, the cop looking for her killer; and then, there's Tim Robbins as Dave Boyle, the other buddy, who lives in the deep, emotional maze of guilt from abduction and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of two adult males when all three boys were only eleven.
The entire cast of "Mystic River"is superb with performances uniformly outstanding across the board. And it is in the uniformity of acting and lack of upstaging that Clint Eastwood gets the credit. Good directors are the ones who make that happen---when it happens. So, tribute must be paid Dirty Harry, himself, as it proves, with "Mystic River," Clint Eastwood has seen the artistic light.
More credit must be heaped upon the two women with significant roles in the film: Marcia Gay Harden as Celeste, Dave's wife; and Laura Linney as Annabeth, Jimmy's wife. Each plays such a different character from the other and yet each is so good and so memorable.
I must advise, however, that it will be difficult for anyone who has experienced the loss of a child to watch this movie. You will suffer as Sean Penn's character suffers. "Mystic River" is a powerfully intimate earthquake that unflinchingly surveys the undulating terrain of love, revenge, violence and guilt, only to suggest, much as Dostoyevsky said of crime and punishment, that all grow from the same seed. But just the same, let's celebrate. Dirty Harry has come clean!
Gary Chew can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.