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Bams' review of
Mystic River


Mystic River (2003)
Rated R; running time 140 butt-numbing minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Seen at: The Little Theater (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Brian Helgeland (based on the novel by Dennis Lehane)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Tom Guiry, Emmy Rossum, Kevin Chapman, Adam Nelson

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

My husband is an avid reader as well as my frequent moviegoing partner. The first time we saw the trailer for Mystic River, the movie, he remarked to me that for some reason, he was having a very difficult time getting past the first few pages of Mystic River, the novel.

Now I see why.

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
As kids, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) were best buds. Their lives changed forever when Dave was forced, by men posing as cops, to go for a long ride with them. Dave came back as "damaged goods", and the threesome drifted apart.

25 years later, they are brought together by the most heinous of circumstances: Jimmy's daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) has been murdered, possibly by someone she knew. Though Sean, now a cop, is assigned to this case along with his partner, Sgt. Powers (Laurence Fishburne), that's not good enough for Jimmy; he wants revenge. His first target? Katie's boyfriend Brendan (Tom Guiry), who (for very convoluted and contrived reasons) Jimmy never liked. But when Dave's wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) starts questioning him about a seemingly unrelated incident, Dave finds himself reliving the terrible secrets of his past.

Before last Monday, I would've thought you mad if you had told me that a company which included cast members Penn, Bacon, Robbins, Fishburne(!), and director Clint Eastwood, could make an uninteresting, grossly transparent movie together. I remain shocked and amazed at how butt-numbingly boring Mystic River was. Sure, I've seen worse; but rarely with such vast talent attached to it.

What bothered me most about having to be subjected to the snooze-inducing torture that was Mystic River, was the complete lack of mystery behind this so-called thriller. Many have complained about how Carl Franklin's latest, Out Of Time, showed its hand early-on; but that movie has nothing on River. I'm generally not the quickest to figure out whodunnit, but the dead giveaway in this film was so obvious, it was like a homing beacon. And once the "mystery" was so clumsily revealed, there was nothing left to go with but the performances. This, needless to say, was unfortunate - because with few exceptions, the performances both in front and behind the camera, left me wanting much, much more.

There were a few sparks in the darkness of River, though they were too few to start a fire. Penn was as intense as usual as the grieving father, though even with Penn's character, Eastwood's major mistake - he forgot the old adage, "Show, not Tell" - was still evident. My jury's still out on Robbins; every time I threatened to appreciate his character's long-suffering, that irritating Bahh-stin affectation of his, drove me to distraction. Tom Guiry did a good job with his limited screen exposure as Katie's boyfriend, Brendan. And speaking of screen-time robbery, it's a crime that Laura Linney didn't get more time to show us what her character was made of. Annabeth's revelations at the end, threatened to perk my interest in Mystic River for a minute. Of course by that time, it was much too little, much too late.

That small pool of goodness was easily swallowed up by the ocean of River sluggishness. Bacon, a generally decent actor, played Sean as if he were Clint Eastwood's alter ego. There are worse things, I reckon, but for this movie, there were few more trite. I don't think I'll ever stop being shocked - Shocked, I say! - at the sheer waste that was Fishburne's character, Whitey (snicker) Powers. Aside from he and partner Sean exchanging some of the most farcical Cop Banter ever ("Hey, he was molested as a kid, right? He's our Prime Suspect!"; "Yeah, but the victim wasn't molested."; "Oh, never mind that, he's our guy!"), I have absolutely no idea why the Sarge existed. That Fishburne's character literally disappeared from most of the last act, was quite telling. I've never seen Diva's Brotha Rule played out quite like this before.

But there is a Special Hell reserved for both director Eastwood, and actress Marcia Gay Harden. Eastwood, because he is capable of much, much better than this road map to Sleepytime. Shot after shot after endless shot of build-up, and only a few minutes of interesting results near the end, is not my idea of a good Eastwood film. And the Devil is making way for Harden because, from her first scene to her last, e-v-e-r-y word, look, or gesture she made, was as if she was scratching her nails across a very big chalkboard. I truly do not remember when a character has been so irritating - or so gee whiz stoopid. Celeste's mere presence made me long for Annabeth to thrash her soundly upside her head. I know, I'm being too subtle; but I could not stand that character, not one single bit.

Not having read the book on which this movie is based, I can't rightly say whether the problem with Mystic River is a case of dullness due to bad source material, or just vast miscalculations by Eastwood and company. But as shocked and amazed as I am at how butt-numbingly boring Mystic River was, I'm almost as shocked and amazed to see how many critics are hailing it as The Next Best Thing. I'm fairly sure we didn't see the same flick.

It would take a mystic to figure out how so many talented people, could make so dull a film.

MYSTIC RIVER:   yellow

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed through 10/17/03):

Bams' reviews:
Runaway Jury | Mystic River

The Diva's reviews:
Runaway Jury | The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Cass' reviews:
Veronica Guerin

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