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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

photo caption:
CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Katie (Emmy Rossum) and her father Jimmy (Sean Penn) share a pleasant moment together before tragedy overtakes Katie.end caption.nd of caption


Clint Eastwood Steps Behind Camera to Direct Flawless Ensemble Drama: "Mystic River"

Review by Kam Williams


In 1993, Clint Eastwood took home both the Best Director and Best Picture Academy Awards for Unforgiven, an arresting Western about a reluctant, washed-up gunslinger coaxed out of retirement for one last showdown with outlaws wanted dead or alive. Eastwood will warrant another round of consideration come Oscar time for Mystic River, a gut-wrenching whodunit which is easily among the very best movies released thus far this year.

Faithfully adapted from the Dennis Lehane best seller of the same name, this alternately pensive and explosive tale is set in a tight-knit, blue-collar, Boston neighborhood. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon star as Jimmy Markum, Dave Boyle and Sean Devine, respectively, childhood friends forever linked by a life-defining incident which occurred when they were only 11.

During a pause from playing street hockey on their block one day, the trio were caught mischievously scratching their names into some wet cement on the sidewalk by a couple of pedophiles masquerading as a cop and a Catholic priest. The fake authority figures order only Dave into their car, and proceed to abduct the boy and then sexually molest him for four days until he managed to escape.

The film fast forwards a quarter century to the present, where we find that the three, now middle-aged, have gone their separate ways. Basket case Dave is still on the block and lucky to have a supportive wife in Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), a woman willing to give him the space to suffer quietly from the continuing fallout caused by the traumatic episode.

And though they are functioning to a greater degree, the same can be said of the emotionally, if not physically, scarred Jimmy and Sean. Happily-married to Annabeth (Laura Linney), Jimmy is a rehabilitated mobster-turned-corner convenience store owner, back in the neighborhood after a stint in the state pen, while Sean is a homicide detective who was recently left by his wife.

What brings these three, beleaguered ex-friends back together is another life-altering event, the senseless murder of Jimmy's 19-year-old daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), whose bloodied body is found in a park after a night of bar hopping. Sean and his partner, Whitey (Laurence Fishburne) are assigned the case, and a prime suspect turns out to be Dave, a patron at the last pub where Katie was spotted.

Sean Penn delivers another nonpareil performance as the grief-stricken but vengeful father intent to rely on local toughs to dole out vigilante street justice before the police can find the perpetrator. At the same time, Whitey is wondering whether Sean might be blinded by old allegiances from seeing Dave as a murder suspect.

What makes Mystic River so compelling is that this taut, claustrophobic crime thriller unfolds in the disappearing kind of community where everybody still knows each other, and where family, friendship, and honor are still of considerable currency. Clint Eastwood's unhurried pace encourages the audience to invest in each of the principals as he holds his cards close enough to the vest to keep us guessing to the very end.

Congratulations are in order to Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland for producing a script which stays true to the source material while delivering a thoroughly satisfying experience. Add a haunting score, an excellent cast, gritty cinematography caught on authentic locales, and you've got all the fixin's for a movie not to be missed.

Excellent. Rated R for profanity, graphic violence, and mature subject matter.

Kam Williams


end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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