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3.9 out of 5 stars
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(Review of the Blu-ray version)

The book versus the film. It's an old argument, and in this case, outstanding though this film is, the book is even better.

Three 11-year-old boys play in the poorer streets of Boston, but one of them is persuaded to get into a car by two men posing as police officers. He's gone for four days and suffers dreadful abuse of a kind that the viewer can only imagine. Then the film moves forwards 30-odd years to the present day, and while two of the friends (Jimmy and Dave) are still in the same neighbourhood, the third - Sean - is now a homicide detective and living on the better side of town. A 19-year-old girl is brutally murdered, and Sean soon realises that she's Jimmy's daughter. Most of the rest of the film is devoted to finding out who did it, and there are some red herrings and surprises along the way. There's something of a race to track down the murderer, because Jimmy's done time and he wants to avenge his daughter's death in his own special way before Sean finds the killer by way of the police procedural process.

This is outstanding in every detail, with a great cast of actors at all levels. Sean Penn is just perfect as ex-con-gone-straight Jimmy (well, nearly straight), and Kevin Bacon as Sean and Tim Robbins as Dave quickly become the characters the readers of the book will have seen in their mind's eye - not necessarily in immediate appearance, but more so in their very different personalities. Penn and Robbins won Oscars for their performances in fact. It's high drama of the highest quality, and yet again hats off to Clint Eastwood for creating such a gem - he must surely be one of the best film directors around today. He produced the musical score too.

With further Oscar nominations for Eastwood as Best Director, Brian Helgeland for Best Writing and Screenplay, not to mention Marcia Gay Harden as Best Supporting Actress and the film itself nominated as Best Film, it's not surprising that it's as good as it is but awards and nominatons alone do not necessarily make for a great film; in this case they do, for this has to be one of the best films of its kind in recent years, if we're talking about mystery dramas. Eastwood is relatively faithful to the book of the same name by Dennis Lehane, but inevitably there are compromises. The most obvious to me was the Boston atmosphere, which played such a big part in the novel but is only occasionally on view in the film. Then there's the camaraderie among the three boys, and the bond they sealed back in the day; it was lovingly portrayed in the book and became its heart and soul. In the film I suppose there just wasn't the time to do that, but anyone unfamiliar with the novel won't know what's missing.

In spite of that, this is a great film, one in which all involved give of their best to produce a near flawless result: the writing, directing, acting and production style can't be faulted, it's a film worth buying rather than just renting. In Blu-ray the treats are enhanced of course, and this is one of those which looks like a high-def film from the first minute. The sound quality is excellent too. In case it wasn't already very clear, I give this Blu-ray film the highest recommendation; but I have to admit it - somehow the book is better still.

One of the great films of the 21st century so far.
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on 9 June 2004
Clint Eastwood has directed a masterpiece which is most likely his best work ever. Completely character driven and full of tension, drama and danger, "Mystic River" is a cinematic experience that shouldn't be passed up. For those 130+ minutes, I was intrigued and amazed. It's a film that doesn't rely on action or senseless non-stop violence, but it relies only on the characters.
Jimmy, Dave and Sean were best friends when they were kids, but something terrible happened. Dave was abducted by two strangers posing as cops one day, only to be held captive and abused (physically, and by "other" means). He did manage to escape, but the experience has forever scarred him. Years later when all three are grown up, they are reunited when a horrible crime arises--Jimmy's nineteen-year-old daughter ends up murdered. Sean's a cop who is on the case and Dave, still deeply disturbed by the past, is acting very strange and suspiciously. The childhood past that these three had has paved the paths of their lives today, which has set in motion these chain-of-events. It is a sad story that can only end in tragedy that will affect all three in unimaginable ways.
On the surface, this seems like a mystery/thriller when it is anything but that. True, it is a murder mystery, but the murder is not what the movie is really about. It's about how the past can never be forgotten and how these three individuals have turned out as a result. You see the characters and how they deal with the tragedy that has befallen them. The mind frame, the course of action, and the need of closure all play a very important role in this tension-filled drama. It's one of those rare films where you could've watched it unfold forever. Clint Eastwood has done a marvelous job of directing this masterpiece of human tragedy and loss.
It has to be said. The cast is PHENOMENAL. The cast could've really made this film a complete and utter failure if the wrong people were chosen, but that is not the case here. Everybody was outstanding. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins give it their all in making their roles come to life. I now know why the two won Academy Awards, and they deserve them very much. Kevin Bacon is terrific and comes off more than just a simple cop. Laurence Fishburne was a complete joy to watch, as well. I didn't even know that he was in this until I bought the DVD, and he was brilliant in a stand-out role. What it all comes down to is that the complete cast is terrific. Not one wasted talent can be found in this entire film.
"Mystic River" is an unforgettable, heart-breaking and overwhelming film that really can show you how fantastic a movie can be if you have the characters and the emotion. Not everyone will enjoy it, as it isn't action-packed, but for those who love character development are in for a real treat. If you haven't seen it yet, I really recommend checking it out. It's definitely one of the better movies to come out of 2003. It's a shame it had to come out the same year as "Return of the King," otherwise I really think this film could've won a few more awards. -Michael Crane
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on 7 May 2006
Haunting drama about judgement, redemption and rejuvenation. While ostensibly a murder mystery the true wealth of mystic river lies in the human mystery surrounding the three main characters.

The film explores the limits to the value of friendship and the unimaginable cruelty of childhood abuse. Robbins' character has been tormented his entire life because of an incident of childhood abuse, as a result of this, another crime committed by Robbins and his wife's lack of trust - he is falsely accused of killing old friend Penn's daughter. He is betrayed by his wife to Penn, who is some kind of respected hoodlum in the community, his wife evidently trusts Penn more than her own husband. This is the moral of the film, Robbins was never able to form the same level of trust and understanding with his wife as the others were because of his childhood trauma and as a result his wife misjudges him and betrays him. In contrast to this, Penn's wife congratulates him when he tells her of his terrible crime, telling him he did what he did to protect his familly, her trust and loyalty is never in doubt.

The ending of the film is powerful stuff, we see the two survivors with their wives - playing happy famillies. Despite the reality of Penn's crimes he is able to exonerate himself of murder, forgive himself easily. Robbins himself was never able to forgive himself for the terrible shame of being a victim of abuse, doubly so because he is male. There was never any peace for him - unlike Penn he has no sin to bury - because the unique cruelty of being a victim of abuse means feeling the full-guilt and shame without having sinned. When you compare the injuries done to Robbins (as a child) and Penn and their respective recoveries from those injuries you conclude that there are worse crimes than murder.
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I was fortunate that I went to see "Mystic River" today knowing nothing more than that Sean Penn headed an impressive cast in a film directed by Clint Eastwood. Consequently, I watched this story unfold without any preconceptions whatsoever and was able to get into the flow of the movie to the point that when Penn's Jimmy Markum declares that he knows that he had a hand in the twists of fate that led to the murder of his 19-year old daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), I knew that this was a pivotal line in the film and a key to unraveling the mystery.
"Mystic River" begins with a past that is prologue. The only real clue is that Luis Tiant is the Boston Red Sox pitcher under discussion by the guys on the front porch. Three young boys are interrupted while writing their names in drying cement by evil wearing a false face of authority. We learn enough of the details to understand how all three boys are scarred, in different ways, and that when circumstances bring them together a couple of decades later, what happened way back when is a material part of their present realities when Jimmy's world is shattered by his daughter's violent murder.
Beyond that I am not inclined to get into much more detail regarding the plot. The script by Brian Helgeland, adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane, does a good job of laying out the clues and false leads. I found that I was just far ahead enough of the dual investigations, one by the cops Jimmy (Kevin Bacon) and Whitey (Laurence Fishburne), the other by local thugs Val (Kevin Chapman) and Nick Savage (Adam Nelson), to know they were getting closer but not putting the pieces together the right way. However, even though I know that telling such a story in a world where modern forensics turns a pint of blood in the trunk of a car into a mountain of damning evidence, the holes in the story's logic did not prove a distraction and my only serious comment would be that I would have changed the motive of the murder to conform better with Jimmy's self-incriminating epiphany. The film plays fair with the audience and ultimately it is the characters that captivate us.
The Oscar nominations for director Eastwood, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and the rest are all rightly deserved, even if strange things happen tomorrow night in Hollywood and known of them win (Robbins is the best bet with Penn now a toss up but still the favorite and Eastwood a dark horse). But the performances of the entire cast are outstanding and it is easy to believe that these people all grew up in this neighborhood and are indeed feeling the pains that force them to make the life altering decisions they do in the course of this film. The film's tagline--"We bury out sins, we wash them clean"--is not paraphrased until the climax, but we recognize the truth of that idea long before that point.
This is also a film that successfully hints at the depth of the novel, no more so when Jimmy's second wife, Annabeth (Laura Linney) delivers what is essentially the films benediction and provides a new perspective on the events that have transpired, putting them rather unexpectedly on a larger level. As I turn over this film in my mind my final question is whether "Mystic River" is more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy or an ancient Greek tragedy. Either way, Clint Eastwood has presented a film that tells of tragedy on a grand scale even if it is played out in a small corner of South Boston.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2012
Based on the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, Clint Eastwood's flawless movie adaption of 'Mystic River' is now easily one of my new favourite films.

Here is one of those films that will instantly absorb you in. It's a haunting thriller, undeniably bleak and depressing, well written and acted out brilliantly by an impressive cast. Essentially, it is a murder mystery with a great deal of surrounding tragedy. It all starts when three schoolboy friends Jimmy Markam (Sean Penn), Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) are playing in the street. Jimmy, the leader and the 'tough' one of the group gets his two pals to write their names in wet cement where the pavement is being repaired. Two men pull over in a car, posing as policeman and abduct Dave, the 'frail' and 'weak' boy of the trio. Dave is abused for four days but eventually escapes. This tragic episode forever changes the lives of all three.

In the present day, Jimmy's 19 year daughter is brutally murdered and the three men are suddenly reconnected in life. Dave is a suspect and Sean is now a policeman who is determined to solve the case before Jimmy, now an ex-con, decides to take the law into his own hands.

'Mystic River' is nothing sort of a masterpiece. It's hard for me to imagine any of other actors who could better the performances of the men in this film. In particular, Tim Robbins is brilliant as the tormented male who is still damaged by the childhood rapes that he suffered all those years ago. He deservedly won the best actor award when this movie was released in 2003 to receive much critical acclaim itself including two academy award wins. This is now my favourite Clint Eastwood movie, if you have to see it, you'd be a fool to miss out what is my idea of a perfect film.

Highly recommended!
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on 12 July 2012
Lets face it, Mystic River was never going to be bad and if it did turn out terrible it's time to hang up the directors hat, because, to my mind this film would have been a cinch to put together. Two things make director, Clint Eastwood's task easy for him: a superb cast and a cracking source novel. I'm not a big reader, but when I found out that the book that this film is based on is from the same author as the brilliant Scorsese flick Shutter Island I knew that I was in for a treat. Was I wrong? No not at all, the story is intensely real and extremely captivating.

Eastwood, very wisely, stays strictly behind the camera, leaving the stage free for the outstanding performances from Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon. Penn, especially delivers an amazing multi-layered performance as a man in whom rage, grief and honour suffer a head-on collision. While Bacon deserves a mention for shedding his usual psycho routine as a psycho and playing a cop caught in a compromising position with great subtlty.

Where the film does fall short is with Robbins, he has, arguably the toughest role as the child abuse victim, Dave, but his part is worst served by the script, I feel like we should be able to find more sympathy for his character, as fate snaps its man-trap jaws around him, but Robbins' best performing efforts can't quite fill in the empathy-less gaps. I think Dave is supposed to be living proof of the way in which child molestation infects the victim and those closest to him; but by reducing his impact and this theme in the movie, a more routine and far less powerful whodunit structure emerges in its place. Nevertheless, the combined efforts of all three actors add psychological weight to the revenge-driven murder mystery.

Despite secondary status, the women in the cast also strengthen the show, particularly Marcia Gay Harden's heartbreaking turn as a woman caught between love and disgust as she fears her husband's troubled past has mutated him into a killer.

Mystic River is a great example of what fantastic actors are capable of when given great source material, and that is what makes this film, not the director, writers, cinematographer or the key grip! This is the actors show and my oh my can they act.
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on 15 December 2004
As a general rule I like to read the book before watching the movie. However, every once in a while it happens to me that while watching a film I think that I would like to read the novel too. This was the case with "The Shipping News", and it was also the case with "Mystic River". When I watched this production, I was constantly thinking that the story was so perfect, that the book must be great. I hope I get a chance to confirm this suspicion soon.
Anyway, going back to the movie, the story evolves around the lives of three childhood friends that went through a traumatic experience when one of them, Dave, was bullied into a car by two adults posing as police officers. He was abused for days until he could finally escape, but something broke inside him, and all three friends where affected as a result.
Now, Jimmy (Sean Penn) owns a convenience store and is still involved with some dangerous men from his days as a delinquent, Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a police officer who was abandoned by his wife six months ago and Dave (Tim Robbins) is a married man that lives a quiet life but still has ghosts from his past that visit him. These three men have not really been in contact with each other over the last few years, even though they live in the same city.
When Jimmy's oldest daughter is murdered, Sean is the detective in charge of the investigation. Also, Dave was in the bar Jimmy's daughter went to the night of her death, and he later came home to his wife bearing a knife wound and alleging that he was mugged by a man that he had to kill. Once the path of the three friends converges, we find ourselves in the middle of a craftily constructed story, which has all the elements that make a great mystery.
Besides the script being incredibly good, it allows the actors to show their best aptitudes by having very powerful scenes and a lot of interesting exchanges. If you have seen this movie it should come as no surprise that both Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won Oscars for their performances in the Lead Actor and Supporting Actor respectively. I really found no drawbacks in this film, but understand that some people may find the story somewhat disturbing. I still think that it is worth seeing by anyone that is not extremely sensitive to murder and violence.
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on 22 July 2004
I set out watching this movie recently in anticipation of something great after all of the amazing reviews, nominations and awards. However, what a complete disappointment from start to beginning. This movie has no atmosphere whatsoever and the performances from actors Penn, Robbins and Bacon certainly not the best I have seen. They are capable of better than just a series of tortured overacted expressions and dull unoriginal dialogue with the dullest storyline. I found myself not even caring about any of the characters, just for this movie to come to an end.
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on 4 June 2004
Ok so its Saturday night you feel great and want to settle down with the love of your life and a good movie well this is the one for you , if you do not mind coming down to earth with a bump. This movie deserved its academy awards but its not a happy movie in any way. it examines the damage that abuse as a child has years after the abuse has taken place. Sean Penn is cast as the grieving parent of a murdered child a role he plays to perfection the veiwer feels his pain. Tim Robbins such a versataille actor earnt his academy award playing the adult survivor of child abuse, showing us how this damage had so profoundly affected his entire existence as a human being . The story itself encompasses the freindship between three men and the different paths their lives have taken over the years it shows us how a tragic death reunites them and leads to the opening of old wounds and the reigniting of pianful memories. It is all bought together by the excellent directing skill of Clint Eastwood . It will leave you satisfyed you have just watched a great film. But it will not leave you full of the joys of a spring day. If you are a bit sad or down then watch something else.
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on 13 October 2004
This is a must see fim...it is heartbreaking and Sean Penn gives the performance of his career..The other actors play key roles in the film (Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins), but it is the sheep presence of Sean Penn that captivates you..A Must see movie..just dont watch it when you are feeling very happy or bubbly.the story centres around these 3 friends and how one act of violence when they were 12/ 13 year old boys, shaped them into the men they grow up to be..The story tells of the murder of Jimmy Markum's (Sean Penn) daughter, and the film focuses on finding who her killer is...Wont say anymore except i was a bit skeptical watching this, as the hype surrounding a film usually kills it for me, but i was almost in tears after 30minutes..this is how great a diretor Clint Eastwood is...he brings out the best in his actor.WATCH WATCH WATCH...or you will regret it, as you dont get many films this fantastic!!
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