More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.3%
Average: 20.79%
Pretty Bad: 14.36%
Total Crap: 5.45%

12 reviews, 130 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Hit-and-Run Squad by Jay Seaver

Shoot to Kill by Jack Sommersby

Day of the Jackal, The by Jack Sommersby

Weathering With You by Jay Seaver

Wonderland, The by Jay Seaver

Crypto by Jack Sommersby

Rambo: Last Blood by Jack Sommersby

Parasite (2019) by Rob Gonsalves

Lighthouse, The by Rob Gonsalves

Almost a Miracle by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Mystic River
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"Eastwood's Modern 'Unforgiven'"
5 stars

Mystic River is simply put, one of those mesmerizing pieces of storytelling that you just sit back in your chair and allow to absorb you. You can’t help it. This is a movie on its own terms with no time to be searching for flaws. Its characters are strong (and weak) and the faces populating them are in tune with every moment, never grandstanding for the camera. And behind it all you have Clint Eastwood, the conductor of a smooth jazz-like orchestration that proves indefinitely that great storytelling is indeed an artform.

As boys, Jimmy, Sean and Dave were a tight bunch playing hockey on the streets of Boston and wanting to carve their names into fresh cement so it would remain forever. This more-than-innocent bit of vandalism raises the ire of a passing car and soon, young Dave is thrust into a nightmare that will haunt him for the remainder of his days.

25 years pass and the boys have gone their separate ways. Jimmy (Sean Penn), the tough guy of the group now has a happy family and owns a local store. Sean (Kevin Bacon) has become a cop and Dave (Tim Robbins), a shell of his former self, still lives in the neighborhood and dotes on his young son.

Late one evening, Dave comes home covered in blood and slashed across his stomach. He says it was a mugger that he may have killed, but his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) becomes suspicious when a 19-year old girl turns up dead. Jimmy’s daughter.

It’s a simple setup that takes its time to evolve over the first 40 minutes. In a more conventional tale, the material could be spun any which way to favor one plot or one character over another. But Eastwood and screenwriter Brian Helgeland (capable of both the brilliant L.A. Confidential and the dreadful The Order) do something masterful by providing an equal footing for each character all involved in their own strand of the same story.

Jimmy must personally deal with the loss of his child through the process of neighborhood gatherings and funeral decisions. Sean and his partner Whitey (Laurence Fishburne) are trying to solve the murder, piecing together the evidence leading them to two suspects; one, the boyfriend of the victim and the other who must come to terms with his own past while looking in the eye of a wife who no longer trusts him.

Mystic River doesn’t beat us into submission with a whole “what’s it all about?” mentality. Some stories just have an evolution of their own without pausing to oversymbolize what’s already right in front of us. Dave isn’t the only one forced to look inward at the timeline that brought him to this point. Sean has an estranged wife who won’t even talk to him nor reveal their daughter’s name and Jimmy has his own demons to confront after doing a stint in prison. The sins of the past rising to the forefront are as amiable as anything to provide a deeper consultation. Couple that with religious symbolism and the aptitude to become heavy-handed can sneak up just as easily as a well-told story.

Eastwood never allows the little things to cloud up the big picture though. His canvas is so thoroughly devised that we only connect-the-dots up to a point and are then subjected to a palpable anger and sadness with how these three stories will eventually converge. Credit Eastwood, Helgeland, cinematographer Tom Stern and Editor Joel Cox for delivering one of the most nail-biting, foundation-shaking finales I’ve seen in recent time.

Through it all, we’ve got a cast that will make any movie fan salivate and “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” players will send thank-you cards for. It’s hard to fathom Sean Penn and Tim Robbins not given serious award consideration for their respective work.

Very few actors can match Penn for inner intensity. As Fishburne’s Whitey points out, he carries the weight of prison on his shoulders and the loss of his daughter in his stomach. We pray for justice and that Jimmy will have the foresight to do the right thing when judgment day is upon him.

Robbins knows just when to pull back on his portrayal of the scarred Dave. The tendency to overplay his balled-up outrage is tempting for any actor, but the hulking Robbins uses every muscle in his face to keep us on edge to what he is capable of. Is he a monster; or just a victim if he is?

Bacon, one of our most underappreciated screen presences, is as solid as ever as Sean, who has no idea how to confront his emotions outside of the daily horror he sees as a detective. Much like Harden’s Celeste, who is now all nerves and no one to explain herself to. Even Laura Linney, who seems mostly left on the sidelines with her thick New England drawl, gets to deliver a final, penetrating monologue that may hit some of the same chords that Amanda Peet’s did last year in Changing Lanes.

This is only the fourth film Eastwood has directed without himself to command the screen (Bird, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the all-but-forgotten 70s romance, Breezy, being the others) and it ranks up there with Unforgiven as a modern companion piece and the best, bar none, of his career. Both masterworks had powerful stories at their forefront that resonated into the waking moments of your trance for days after you left the theater. This is a virtuoso achievement from Eastwood and everyone involved with Mystic River whose final credits actually read “Music by Clint Eastwood”. If a more apropos coda could exist, I couldn’t think of one.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/08/03 15:01:25
[printer] printer-friendly format  
This film is available for download or online viewing at For more in the series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good & haunting film 4 stars
9/11/15 misterfilms poor films. i'm glad Academy gave LOTR Best Picture 1 stars
1/25/14 Simon Sleek direction& raw acting, but too deliberate&muddled. Awful end w/Linney's 'king' speech 3 stars
2/25/12 brian poor cinema tography, crap screenplay. disjointed,over dramatic Penn. .need i say more 2 stars
12/29/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Great movie by a great director. 5 stars
11/20/09 Jeff Wilder Eastwood's best film as a director. 5 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike good mystery/thriller. Robbins is a stand-out. 4 stars
9/08/06 Thomas Semesky Predictable. There are better movies from 2003 worth seeing. 3 stars
8/26/06 cpbjr very good 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley The more you see it, the more artificiality becomes apparent. Still packs a punch though. 4 stars
1/01/06 Tanya Sean penn is always great in his movies 4 stars
12/21/05 Carolyn Rathburn Very deep movie, impressed with Penn's performance 4 stars
12/09/05 Frank Rountree This movie was a disappointment, it didn't live up to it's billing 2 stars
9/21/05 Indrid Cold Seems like the point is to give Penn scenes where he can cry and show off his chops. 3 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Mystic seems a mighty muddy river and movie. 1 stars
9/10/05 Alex what a stupid idea! and should i move out of boston? 1 stars
8/19/05 ES Good movie, no idea what it was trying to say at the very end 4 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Penn as Brando-not, overacted,over praised,just over. 3 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler Impossible to ignore the fine performances of sean penn and tim robbins in this one. 5 stars
6/23/05 sally angwin everything that clint touches turns to gold 4 stars
6/13/05 Charlene Javier Hated it the first time. Loved loved loved it the second time. 5 stars
6/09/05 Agent Sands such a great movie. One of the biggest stand-outs of Clint's career. 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise great 4 stars
3/24/05 Michael Lloyd a very emotional film, shouldve won best picture 5 stars
3/19/05 Messina Great movie if you like being hit over the head. 1 stars
3/03/05 jeff very predictble, nothing special. 3 stars
2/17/05 Daveman Superbly acted with muscular direction from Eastwood, lacked dramatic cohesion though. 4 stars
2/12/05 Aimee Shelton Very intense and well-acted. Superb film-making! 5 stars
2/05/05 Susan Chamberlain I kept watching even though I didn't want to. 4 stars
2/02/05 Alice Colwell Good movie 5 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg yuck...still can't figure out what the hype is about. 2 stars
2/01/05 Christy Harris Very "who done it?" loved trying to figure out 5 stars
1/30/05 Frank Tells good movie 4 stars
1/30/05 Christine An excellent movie and the acting was first-rate 5 stars
1/29/05 Carolyn Rathburn This film was too intense for me, well acted, but not my cup of tea. 4 stars
1/16/05 Charlene Javier Loved it the second time around! 4 stars
1/14/05 Barry Taylor It was a good movie with a twist at the end but nothing special 3 stars
1/07/05 ewen Brilliant! 5 stars
12/31/04 Tjalda L. Schiel Over acted, over rated clap trap. 2 stars
12/27/04 juliana sadock savino bravo to eastwood for the score. it was at once unobtrusive & essential 5 stars
12/22/04 Michael OConnor Phenomenal Acting!!! 5 stars
12/15/04 PHIL M. AFICIONADO Riveting and moody, with a sad story to tell through excellent acting 5 stars
12/12/04 Landshark A parade of irony, hypocrisy & fate? Nope, just sound & fury signifying nothing. 3 stars
11/24/04 Geoff Brilliant movie. Great direction by Eastwood (musical score too) and performances from all 5 stars
11/23/04 Carly Austin Sean Penn is brilliant, as is every aspect of this movie. Watch Marcia Gay Harden too. 5 stars
11/12/04 jellica sean is really increadable 5 stars
11/01/04 shell Sean Penn was good, as ever, but this is a seriously flawed movie. Murray was ROBBED. 3 stars
9/27/04 alicia left me breathless 5 stars
9/14/04 R. Block Worst part: why throw in that scene w/ Penn IDing his daughter's body? Trite. 4 stars
8/16/04 Peter James Proves in a way that A Beautiful Mind did that great acting can make a movie amazing 5 stars
8/05/04 Chris a truly remarkable film. acting was amazing and story was powerful and emotional.very good 5 stars
7/28/04 Mike Devans very well done. 4 stars
7/23/04 Jannet Kwan This is a somewhat confusing movie. 3 stars
7/20/04 Harry J No story? Pay attention. Almost awesome. A really good story. 4 stars
7/15/04 Joe Smaltz good acting no story 2 stars
7/15/04 Glen Dean I didn't like the way Jimmy gets away with murder. 2 stars
7/12/04 Monster W. Kung Overrated crud. Good acting doesn't make up for muddled plot and loathsome 'moral'. 2 stars
7/11/04 Phil M. Aficionado EricDSnider speaks for me on this one; and, really really good acting is the key. 4 stars
7/08/04 JME No car crashes? Oh yeah, this isn't typical Hollywood schlock. 5 stars
7/08/04 Denise great plot 5 stars
6/29/04 Len Good movie worth watching 5 stars
6/26/04 Alex Robbins is superb, Penn is woefully overacting. All too dark to be worth a go 2 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Really good, Clint done good!! Very depressing though. 5 stars
6/20/04 elizaveta mesmerizing performances, truly surprising in the outcome, all too human 5 stars
6/13/04 Kooler Sloppy storytelling, & Penn nearly chokes on the scenery. Death to method actors! 3 stars
6/12/04 Shawn Great movie. Makes you think. 5 stars
6/11/04 Butterbean Climax was unnecessarily long. Screw Penn, Robbins outshine everyone. 4 stars
4/10/04 Vince Chan Excellent acting, plot was a bit thin in some spots.. long movie! 4 stars
4/08/04 jscrapple huge holes in the plot and nonsensical ending 2 stars
3/24/04 Chloe Brody This was fucking awesome - Penn finally got an Oscar that he really deserves... 5 stars
3/10/04 brett this movie blows. it left me wondering why i spent money on it 2 stars
3/09/04 Blaine Holloway oh yes im getting that!!!!! 2003: 3rd only to return of the king and last samurai! 5 stars
3/09/04 Wendranh Sean Penn...grown up 4 stars
3/07/04 C. Hernandez Not that great. Kevin Bacon's personal storyline seemed like an afterthought. 3 stars
3/07/04 movieboy Awesome the acting made this movie and what a intersting plot had me guessing to the end 5 stars
2/24/04 rhett the acting was so bad, if i wasn't with my girlfriend i would have left half way through 2 stars
2/23/04 Christopher Klejdys Man, I liked this movie...but the last 15 munutes were a disaster. 4 stars
2/12/04 Obi Wan Over-rated Penn Oscar talks for his IAS Snub...ending felt rushed...wait for Rental 3 stars
2/08/04 Gretchen Seitz Ray Jr. didn't kill Kate! He was covering for his creepy mama! Otherwise awesome. 4 stars
2/03/04 Jin Borrows heavily from Sleepers and In the Bedroom; both are better. 4 stars
1/30/04 timothy briant 2 star film with 5 star actors ,dissapointing quick ending for such an intricate plot . 2 stars
1/30/04 Seb Sloppy: dad and son play wiffle ball in a yard that's about 5 feet long. Duh. 2 stars
1/25/04 124 should win many academy awards 5 stars
1/24/04 vikram the master at work again 5 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody Wow! Sean Penn gets more amazing with each film! 5 stars
1/16/04 Ralph R. Clemente Great film and great acting. Bravo Mr. Eastwood 5 stars
1/09/04 Matt Fairly ok up until the truly awful ending. Trite and forced and consequently harms the film 3 stars
1/03/04 Admiral Piett Sean Penn sucks donkey balls. 1 stars
1/03/04 A F Ending dragged too long. I liked most of it, but you need to know when you should END! 4 stars
12/30/03 ownerofdajoint one of the greatest movies in the last ten years;don't miss it! 5 stars
12/30/03 Chlo This movie was so fucking brilliant...tell me - why hasn't Sean Penn won an Oscar yet? 5 stars
12/21/03 jj yes 5 stars
12/16/03 Buck Neilson incongruous 1 stars
12/13/03 G.W.B (lets bomb the world) JNR Go ahead make my day. Oh you just did!! 5 stars
12/09/03 Agent Sands Impressively shot, with great acting, strong, tight directing, good music, & good writing. 5 stars
12/07/03 admiral piett Sean Penn is in it. Enough said. 1 stars
11/29/03 DM Why do we let retards like Edler onto this site? 4 stars
11/29/03 jeff get real! it's an excellent film 5 stars
11/26/03 Fern Jones Brilliant 5 stars
11/23/03 John Bale Eastwood's film masterpiece with superb cast and craftmanship 5 stars
11/20/03 Helen Bradley Great script, pace,actors & directing 5 stars
11/20/03 boxcar anyone who didnt like this movie sucks 5 stars
11/19/03 Edler Sucked shit out of a baboon's ass. 2 stars
11/14/03 Sean Movie Critic Predictable, Long....but overall good story behind it. 4 stars
11/13/03 ownerofdajoint this is truly an awesome movie 5 stars
11/11/03 Jod Forget "Bridges of Madison County", Eastwood directs a masterpiece. 5 stars
11/07/03 Cameron Slick The strongest film of the year with several amazing performances, quite a perplexing film. 5 stars
11/04/03 John I want my money back 1 stars
11/03/03 Suzz Overrated. I read the book; film lacked power and surprise. 3 stars
11/03/03 malcolm Penn does his best DeNiro; what a cast! 3 stars
11/03/03 carly seen "sleepers" much? this has all been done before. total pap bullshit. 2 stars
11/03/03 Doc Terrible. A full hour too long; terrible editing; flat characters; SLOW, DULL, BORING! 1 stars
10/30/03 melvyn masterful....well cast...psychological depth. 5 stars
10/27/03 Brent Great fillm, a must see for film lovers 5 stars
10/27/03 Edler Dumb story. Lots of pretentious scenes. Resolution of the mystery bites. 3 stars
10/26/03 Heather Drowning in Grief and Murky Waters 2 stars
10/21/03 Will Oscar worthy effort, Great acting and taulty directed. 5 stars
10/21/03 Grzmlyk Most overrated acting and direction since "Philadelphia." Not one believeable moment. 1 stars
10/21/03 David Great Show, here's to more films with unanswered questions when the lights come up! 4 stars
10/20/03 Vince Yeah. 3 stars
10/20/03 blue i loved it 5 stars
10/20/03 R.W. Welch Expert direction and acting. Plot line has a couple weak spots. 4 stars
10/19/03 Graham Film of the year so far 5 stars
10/19/03 john wonderful acting and story without the pat, trite stuff ya sometimes see in 'who done its' 5 stars
10/18/03 Nunzeo aweful. people actually got up and left. major disappointment 1 stars
10/16/03 Justin C. Ayd This picture had absolute perfect direction, the acting, it was amazing. 5 stars
10/16/03 lycan better than Blood Work, but then, most movies are... 3 stars
10/11/03 Wendy Read the book and it was phenomenal. See the movie. 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  08-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jun-2004



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast