Mystic River

Boasting a cast that would make Robert Altman envious, Mystic River features a moving screenplay, solid direction and a superb cast highlighted by Sean Penns Oscar-worthy performance. The film resonates with such raw emotion and power that still lingers after leaving the theater. With a little over two months left in the year, Mystic River has established itself as the frontrunner for this years best picture.Brian Helgelands screenplay, adapted from Dennis Lehanes novel, tells the story of three childhood friends whose lives forever change when one of the friends is sexually abused.All three have forever felt the effect of the tragedy. Jimmy Marcus (Sean Penn) is a career criminal who still has regrets over the incident. Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) has gotten out of the Boston neighborhood, working as a homicide detective, but still has trouble in relationships.Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) still carries the scars from the wounds opened on that tragic childhood day.All three friends have gone their separate ways, but reunite when Jimmys oldest daughter (Emmy Rossum) is brutally murdered.This new tragedy allows the wounds from their childhood to reopen, and part of the strength of Mystic River is how the first incident connects with the second one.Sean and his partner, Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne), are called in to investigate the murder, but their investigation is hindered by Jimmy and his criminal crew intent on conducting their own investigation and exacting their own form of justice on the killer. Meanwhile, Daves wife, Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), begins to suspect her husband may have something to do with the crime.Eastwood gives the film an almost jazz-like quality in the way he choreographs the film. There is a distinctly laid-back, almost smoky feel to the film, but it is quite effective given the material with Helgeland wisely juggling a stirring character drama with a pretty interesting mystery.The cast is first rate. Harden and Laura Linney as Jimmys wife, Annabeth, give depth to their roles, while Bacon and Fishburne have some good scenes together as the duo are conflicted on how to proceed with the investigation. Robbins deserves supporting actor consideration for his haunting portrayal as Dave.But its Penn who stands above the incredibly gifted cast. His performance is one of the years most honest and moving. Most actors would kill for a film that features one highlight reel scene capable of getting Oscar voters attention. Penn gets two such scenes. One scene, in which he talks openly about the pain he is suffering, is gut wrenching, while the other scene, an expression of that pain to his daughter in the morgue, is just as powerful and moving.Penn might want to get an Oscar speech ready, because its hard to imagine seeing a better performance this year.Its almost as hard to imagine another movie surpassing Mystic River as this critics pick for the best movie of 2003. Wondering why sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton didnt give Mystic River an A+? Two words: No monkeys! To swap memories of your first viewing of the Eastwood classic Every Which Way But Loose, or to comment on Mikes reviews, e-mail him at

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