now, firstly, i like clint eastwood films. i like clint eastwood. i liked unforgiven a whole lot, thought a perfect world got the only good performance out of kevin costner that i've seen, and i enjoyed absolute power despite the fact that i never bought the hole president thing. i didn't think blood work or space cowboys were the best of his work, but what i liked about them, as with some of his other films, was the exploration of age. i think it's somewhat revealing to watch eastwood work through the various ways an aging man can be slowed down, and yet overcome his obstacles. the only other actor to bring this into his films has been jack nicholson, but it's only occasional. with eastwood, when he is in a film, the exploration of age and illness and the slowly approaching death (or mortality) are a constant throughout his work.
mystic river, however, doesn't feature eastwood as an actor, so these themes, perhaps his strongest, are not in the film. instead, following it focuses on crippling emotional pain and revenge, and the tragedy that comes when the two are connected. it has sean penn as the grieving father, tim robbins as the damaged man, and kevin bacon as the cop--all of them childhood friends, all of them having slowly slipped out of each others world.
the first half of the film is really quite good. it opens with the three as young boys playing on the street, and then writing in wet cement, where they are caught by a supposed 'cop' who takes tim robbins' character away, supposedly to return him home. he's not, and instead spends four days locked in the cellar being raped. the scenes here are handled well by eastwood, and the script is sharp, and the whole scenario has a believability in the way you dave (robbins) is taken that adds an extra level of menace to the whole thing.
cut to the present, and robbins is damaged, and slowly unraveling. sean penn's jimmy, the street tough child, now has a nineteen year old daughter, a second wife with two girls, and is a pillar in the small rundown suburb he lives in. he did a small trip in prison, sixteen years previous. kevin bacon is a cop whose wife has left him, and whose partner is laurence fishburne, who has, sadly, been named 'whitey powers'. yes, how funny that the black cop is called whitey powers. jeez. someone ought to have slapped around whoever came up with that particularly subtle moment. in fact, it's so goddamned awful that i found myself, every time he was introduced, waiting for someone to say, 'christ you're black cop in a white system, fuck, it's amazing your name. pity there ain't no black folk around here for you to bond with, mr powers.'
anyhow, that aside, the film kicks off into a who-dun-it? when jimmy's nineteen year old daughter is murdered, and dave returns home, bruised and with a knife wound to the stomach. did he do it? does he realise what he is doing? just how damaged is dave? and what will jimmy, who has never been an innocent, and who is slowly building to a moment of terrible violence, do?
in the end, it's kinda obvious what happens, and it's not too hard to figure out who killed his daughter. but the performances, especially from penn and robbins, are really quite good, and eastwood puts together a solid film, so it's quite enjoyable to watch it. despite the little niggling problems, or moments where something isn't quite right, you'll be pulled along, caught up in this interesting portrayal and the oncoming tragedy... but there is a final ten or five minutes that feel like they've been taken from an entirely different film altogether. it doesn't just feel wrong, but is more of a 'what the fuck?' kind of moment. judging from the response other people had in the film, i guess i might be the only one, but still, you know, it's what i thought while watching the parade go by.
in the end, this isn't eastwood's finest film, and it's not the actors finest roles (i've always liked penn's performance in the thin red line the most, but then i love the film, too), but it isn't their worst, either, so you'll lose nothing by going to see it.