"Mystic River" good, but it ain't all that

by Eric Melin on October 24, 2003

in Print Reviews

In the ads currently running for director Clint Eastwood’s newest film, “Mystic River,” I’ve seen the word “masterpiece” used. I’ve also seen that this is Sean Penn’s “role of a lifetime.”

I don’t agree with either of these statements. “Mystic River” is a good movie. But if you want to see a Clint Eastwood masterpiece, rent “Unforgiven.” And if you want to see Sean Penn’s real role of a lifetime, rent “Dead Man Walking.”

I saw “Mystic River” a little over a week ago, and it has taken me this long to write a review, and a hlaf-hearted one at that. I just don’t have that much to say about it.

The acting is all top-notch. Along with Penn, Tim Robbins and Marcia Gay Harden also stood out. But the coincidences in the story are just a little too unlikely to make a great movie. In one ridiculous leap, the slow-witted Robbins all of a sudden turns into a quick-thinking mastermind under police interrogation. Laura Linney delivers an uncomfortable speech at the end that seems like it belongs in a different movie.

Eastwood catches these somber people on a particularly unfortunate day. Robbins, Penn, and Kevin Bacon are three childhood friends abruptly and unexpectedly thrown together again by some improbable coincidences.

“Mystic River” is at its best when the three leads are forced to interact again after years of being apart. Eastwood takes his time for most of the film and really lets the acting breathe. There is much brooding, and like any good crime thriller, suspicion gets thrown around to multiple characters.

When it’s all said and done, the mystery has a satisfying ending, but some of the sub-plots seemed forced and underdeveloped. Bacon is saddled with very little to do in his particular contrivance, and Penn’s last minute character turn happens way too quick. My guess is that all of the attention it is getting may be due to the low output of quality Hollywood dramas this year.

It’s not all that most critics would lead you to believe, but “Mystic River” is a pretty absorbing flick.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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