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MYSTIC RIVER (2003)
MYSTIC RIVER is a dramatic tale of three childhood friends' reunion which is brought about after, 25 years later, one of the men's, Jimmy Markum, nineteen year old daughter is brutally murdered. With one friend, Sean Divine, working as a police detective on the case, and the other friend, Dave Boyle, established as a primary suspect, the three childhood friends struggle to come to terms with the murder and discover the true perpetrator before somebody innocent winds up dead.
Written by: Dennis Lehane (novel) and Brian Helgeland.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood.
Genre: Drama, Crime, Mystery.
Rated: R for language, violence, and disturbing thematic content.
Jimmy, Dave, and Sean are buddies. They like to spend their days playing street hockey amidst the blue-collared streets of their 1970's Boston town. All seems well until one tragic day when Dave is captured and taken in by illegitimate police officers who proceed to sexually abuse him for several days, returning him to society a broken and jaded boy.
Flash forward to present day where Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) is still haunted by his childhood and does his best to protect his little boy Mikey. Happily married to his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), Dave seems to have found a little place of peace, even if in the same town as his tragic childhood.
But tragedy strikes again when his childhood friend Jimmy Markum "Sean Penn" soon discovers that his eldest daughter Katie Markum (Emmy Rossum) has been brutally murdered. Knowing that he came home the same night with blood on his hands after allegedly beating up a pedophile, Boyle refuses to testify about his possible tryst thinking it may get him arrested for murder. Ironically enough, his refusal to testify to his possible killing of another person, in addition to the fact that he was at the last bar Katie was spotted at during the night of her murder, makes him Sean Divine (Kevin Bacon) and Sgt. Whitey Powers’ (Laurence Fishburne) latest suspect in the homicide case.
While Jimmy seeks comfort in his old friend Dave, his other friend, Sean, investigates Dave quietly behind Jimmy’s back. Meanwhile Jimmy's wife Annabeth (Laura Linney) remains solidly at his side, and is comforted by the concerned Celeste Boyle. Desperate to know who he killed, Celeste pleads for Dave to tell her the truth, but Dave’s head is all mixed up with the memories of the past and the pain of his present situation and he fails to reveal his innocence and leaves Celeste suspecting that he may have in fact killed Katie Markum after all. Confiding in Jimmy, Celeste alludes to Dave's possible involvement in Katie's murder.
Back at the station Sean and Sgt. Powers have questioned Katie's boyfriend Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry). Discovering the two were planning to elope, Sean believes Brendan to be innocent until he connects the murder weapon, a gun, to Brendan’s father, Ray Harris. As Sean digs further into the case he discovers that Jimmy Markum was the one who ratted Ray Harris out for his illegal deeds and landed Ray behind bars several years back. Trying to figure out how Ray's gun ended up in the hands of his son, Sean discovers there to be a powerful motive in the Harris family to off Katie. But Brendan professes his love repeatedly and leaves Sean to suspect that Ray Harris himself committed the murder, which seems possible after he unveils that Ray is out of prison and wiring money to his kids every month.
Sean continues to question Brendan, but he cannot question his younger brother, silent Ray Harris Jr., who is allegedly a mute. Nevertheless Sean persists that the killer is one of the Harris men and continues his angle that way while Jimmy Markum takes matters into his own hands involving suspect Dave Boyle. Childhood friend or no, Jimmy begs to know the truth about Dave's car which was found with a pint of blood that matched Katie's blood type. Desperate Dave once more attempts to declare his innocence to no avail… meanwhile Sean and Powers walk in on Brendan being held at gunpoint by his younger brother's friend. Katie's murderer is soon found to be one of the three boys in the room… but that doesn't help poor Dave Boyle.
As Jimmy attempts to move on with his life, tending to his 'domestic responsibilities' as husband and father of two daughters, Celeste Boyle tries to understand why her husband has been missing for the past few days. Meanwhile Sean, well aware of Dave's fate, heads home deflated, until a call from his estranged wife offers him a hopeful chance at a new start in life. The film concludes with all of the characters brought together to join in celebration for the town’s local parade. But a series of ironies undermine the celebration and one, by one, each character’s fate is revealed. Not everyone gets the happy ending, and sometimes being king of a town doesn't make the pain hurt any less than if he were a peasant.
MYSTIC RIVER is a powerful and intense drama that smacks of the genius and influence of American Beauty. A poignant ending, Eastwood renders the film’s conclusion as meditative and powerful while being simultaneously disturbing. Shot in only 39 days, the brilliant film wound up winning 2 Oscars, 37 other film critic awards, on top of 50 nominations.
Sean Penn is mesmerizing in his role as the tortured Jimmy Markum. His performance, for which he won an Oscar for Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, moves audiences through the emotional spectrum in seizing waves. His tears and his rage are equally moving and powerful and expose the flawed yet humane depths of his character. His 'right hand woman' Laura Linney, plays the solidly stoic supportive wife to a 'T' which contrasts beautifully with Marcia Gay Harden’s portrayal of Celeste Boyle as a grief-stricken and panicked woman afraid to love her husband. Tim Robbins sinks into his meek role with ease and offers that same silently contemplative yet tortured air to his character that attests to the tragic irony of his character’s fate, for which he won an Oscar for Best Male Supporting Actor. Kevin Bacon again is perfectly cast as a stoic hard-fast cop torn between his loyalties to friends and duty. Laurence Fishburne does an equally good job playing the calculating Powers. Moreover Tom Guiry shines in his role as the tortured lover who fears he has lost the one thing he can never regain: true love.
Faith, love, and friendship will all be tested and desperate times calling for desperate measures don’t always make things turn out right. MYSTIC RIVER is anything but light-hearted. Nevertheless this film is a powerful portrait of the bonds of filial and friendly love and attests to the paradoxical reality of how those bonds are both tenuous and yet powerfully strong.
Sean Penn plays Jimmy Markum, an ex-con turned father of three who has jut discovered his eldest daughter to have been brutally murdered.
Tim Robbins plays Dave Boyle, Jimmy's meek childhood friend whose haunted by his past which comes back to entangle him an a precarious situation involving Jimmy's daughter's murder.
Kevin Bacon plays Sean Diving, the final member of the childhood trio who has turned into a police detective who works to solve the latest homicide case involving Jimmy’s daughter while mending his relationship with his estranged wife.
Laurence Fishburne plays Sgt. Whitey Powers, Sean Divine's partner and head detective in Jimmy's daughter's homicide case.
Marcia Gay Harden plays Celeste Boyle, Dave Boyle's protective but equally terrified wife who questions her husband’s innocence regarding Jimmy's daughter's murder.
Laura Linney plays Annabeth Markum, Jimmy Markum’s level-headed and sober-minded wife.
Emmy Rossum plays Katie Markum, the girl whose tragic murder brings about the three childhood's friend's reunion.
Tom Guiry plays Brendan Harris, Katie Markum's boyfriend, husband-to-be, who is tortured by the loss of his love.