October 22, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 29  

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A Mystic journey full of choices

Mystic River

Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne
Directed by: Clint Eastwood

By Jordan Bell
Gazette Staff

Warner Bros./2003
DON’T CRY — I’M NOT A KILLER IN THIS MOVIE! Sean Penn and Marcia Gay Harden share a moment in Mystic River.

Do you ever question, "What if?" What if you had asked that stunning girl/guy out on a date? What if you had connected on that last second shot? What if you had gotten into that car with the drunk driver?

How would your life be different?

In the new Clint Eastwood directed film Mystic River, three characters ask themselves that same question and are forced to deal with the long-term repercussions of a choice gone inexplicably wrong.

The movie begins with three young boys -Jimmy, Dave and Sean- rebelliously etching their names in concrete on a street in a rough-and-tumble South Boston neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the rebels are caught by two surly old men -Dave is subsequently nabbed and taken away to meet unthinkable evils at the hands of his abductors.

Fast-forward years later and the three boys have grown into adulthood: Jimmy Markum (Penn) as a convenience store owner and Godfather-type ruler of the neighbourhood; Dave Boyle (Robbins) as a miserable, marginally-employed castoff and Sean Devine (Bacon) as a detective.

Markum's daughter is heinously murdered one night on the same streets where the three boys lost their innocence and coincidentally, Boyle arrives home the same night with blood on his hands and a skeleton in his closet.

The impending investigation, led by Devine, uncovers more than just a suspect; it brings formerly repressed emotions exploding to the surface in a chilling, suspenseful climax that brings the story full circle.

Penn is emotionally riveting, expressing extreme anguish during a goose-bumps-inducing scene when Devine reveals his daughter's death. Penn is also passionately vengeful when forced to confront his suspected daughter's killer.

Robbins performs an adequate portrayal of a deeply scarred adult, desperately trying to grasp why of the three boys on the street that fateful day during their youth, it was he who was chosen to endure the life-altering abuse.

But it is the direction of Eastwood that propels this revenge parable above the endless crowd of psychodramas. The scenes of utmost importance -Markum's realization his daughter is dead and his confrontation with his suspected daughter's killer- are handled with a carpenter's care. The dialogue is well-suited to the strength of the cast and the plot manoeuvers through more twists than Chubby Checker -it's Shakespeare, 21st-century-style.

Mystic River is an exploration of the deepest of human emotion and the skeletons hidden within everyone's closets. It's an adeptly directed film deserving of screen time in an industry devoid of talent.

Don't be forced to ask yourself, "What if?" Go see Mystic River the first chance you get.



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