I've seen some really awful films this month, but I've seen some great ones alongside them. Mystic River falls into the latter category.
Extremely reminiscent of another well-casted flick, Sleepers, Mystic River is a powerful drama centered around three childhood friends who have drifted apart and a devastating murder that reconnects them. Warning: this movie is kind of a downer. If you're looking for sunshine and happiness, look elsewhere. If you're looking for some intense acting, masterful directing, and a story that will make you feel slightly uneasy, you've come to the right place.
After a disturbing incident on the streets of Boston splits up the childhood trio, the film jumps ahead to when the main characters are in their 30's. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con-turned-family-man. Dave (Tim Robbins) is still haunted by the memories of said disturbing event. Sean (Kevin Bacon) works for the "staties" with his ironically-named partner Whitey (Laurence Fishburne). When Jimmy's daughter is murdered, the three men are thrown back together in a hunt for the killers and some redemption for themselves along the way.
I had a couple beefs with this movie. The first and most important is that Katie, Jimmy's daughter, is murdered way too early in the film. The sole reason I say this is because I was distraught that the unbelievably attractive Emmy Rossum (pictured) didn't get more screen time. The second is that this movie was directed by Clint Eastwood, and it wasn't a western. Don't get me wrong, I'm a semi-Eastwood fan: but seriously, this subject matter is getting a little too serious for ya, Clint. You're like 90 years old. Go back to money-in-the-bank western cameos or direct some more westerns yourself. The Western genre has been fading at a dangerous rate in this country since Eastwood has stepped off the scene, and we need it back. This isn't to say that I'm a huge western fan, either. (Although Tombstone was fantastic. Highly recommend it.) It does mean that I don't think entire genres need to be exterminated because a few select individuals don't step up to the plate and do their part (ahem, ahem...CLINT...ahem). Come on, man: Robert Duvall can't do it all on his own.
Quasi-ridiculous criticisms aside, the cast and direction of Mystic River did a phenomenal job and their work paid off, making this one of the most well-rounded films I've seen in a long time. This was particularly evident with the death of Ms. Rossum's character. Her death tears at the very souls of the people that knew her. I've never seen death portrayed in such a compelling fashion on screen before. In most movies, people die and it's really not that big of a deal. Sure, their loved ones may cry for a little bit, but they seem to realize that the movie has to continue, so they move on with their lives with only slight glimpses of sadness for the remainder of the film (I'm lookin' your way, Steven Seagal. Hard to Kill ring any bells for ya?). Compared to the amount of emotion elicited from the parents and loved ones of the victim in Mystic River, those "other-movie" characters are heartless. This movie accomplished its goal. It actually had me thinking at one point about how horrible it would be if one of my friends was tragically killed. I know that's a terrible thing to think about, but if a movie can get you to think AT ALL nowadays, it has succeeded; plus, that kind of thinking only serves to make the film all the more personal for the audience and allows them to relate to the emotionally devastated characters, proving the director/screenwriters are doing their jobs.
Those of you who've seen Sleepers will pick up on the similarity. Both films center around a group of boys, their experiences, and then flashes forward to later in their lives where they reunite. Both feature themes of sexual abuse. Both tell moral tales of redemption and revenge. Both star Kevin Bacon. It also had a singular element in common with The Departed and The Boondock Saints*: those annoying Irish-Boston accents that everyone character has to have because they live in Massachusetts.
Besides the aforementioned great acting and directing, this movie serves a much more important purpose in today's society: with all the talent involved in this flick, it's a gold mine when playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
This is another one of those movies where the ending is the most important part, and I'd be doing the film a disservice if I gave it away to you here. Go rent it and see what I'm talking about. The movie is intense, but it's worth it. Until next time...
*For those of you that are fans of The Boondock Saints, you'll be pleased to know that there is new life in the long-anticipated sequel Boondock Saints: All Saints Day. There have been some legal battles being fought over the past four years regarding the rights to the sequal, and now writer/director Troy Duffy has finally secured the rights and is in the process of getting funding for the movie. Last I heard, all the cast from the first one except for Willem Dafoe is returning for the sequel, which is definitely good news. You can hear all this from Duffy's mouth in a video posted on the main Boondock web site here. Here's hoping this gets off the ground and into theaters sometime in the next two years.