Mystic River

Year: 2003
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden
This movie was a victim of too much distributor and critical hype. Clint Eastwood is now lauded as one of the greatest directors alive, but he isn't really - he's just a cinema icon. Some of his stuff (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) has been great, some of it (Blood Work) has been really ordinary.

Mystic River suffers more by being cast with a group of the best actors in the world, which ups the level of expectation even more.

And if it had been a straight drama, it would have worked on another level. But it's a straight cops and robbers thriller with a huge dramatic arc in the characters, and the premise never rises above it. Performed by less competent actors, it would have been a crashing bore.

Of course, their acting is a standout. The ever-brilliant Sean Penn commands more screen time than any other actor could put to good use with his grief, and even though Tim Robbins hasn't really flexed his acting muscle in a few years like this, it's still strong. Kevin Bacon plays a staunchly reliable part and while the plot device of the wife who rings him but never speaks does give him an emotional depth, it feels out of place.

Otherwise, the scenery and production is as drab and grey as the story as the teenage daughter of former gangster Penn is murdered. Bacon is the cop looking into the case, and Robbins a suspect.

What links the three men together is their childhood friendship that was shattered by a deceitful attack by a child molester.

Themes link the boys to the men, none of them very memorable, but they give a vanilla flavoured murder mystery a strong dramatic grounding. Ironically, it's when Bacon and street-talking partner (Lawrence Fishburne) are on the case that Mystic River is most interesting.

Not a failure by any stretch, more of a wobbly hit.

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