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PCR # 186  (Vol. 4, No. 42)  This edition is for the week of October 13--19, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Mystic River"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three and a half stars

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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 7 mins

Say what you want about the French. Their little yappy dogs, their rudeness, the fact that they drink wine with everything.......even wine. Along with Jerry Lewis, French film fans were the first to truly appreciate the director hiding inside Clint Eastwood. 10 years ago, Hollywood finally took him seriously and awarded him the Best Director Oscar for "Unforgiven." A decade later, he is making a claim for another award with "Mystic River."

The film begins with three young boys playing in the streets of South Boston. Jimmy is the tough one, Sean the smooth one and Dave is the quiet one. While writing their names in a fresh patch of cement, they are stopped and questioned by two men who identify themselves as police officers. After reprimanding the boys, they tell Dave to get in the car and they will take him home. Jimmy and Sean can only watch as the car drives off while Dave looks back at them through the back window.

Jump ahead 30 years. Jimmy (Penn) is now the father of three daughters and the owner of the neighborhood grocery store. Sean (Bacon) is a cop whose wife has left him. And Dave (Robbins) is a quiet father, who takes the time every afternoon to play whiffle ball with his young son. On the day Jimmy's youngest daughter makes her first communion, he learns that his oldest daughter has just been brutally murdered. Assigned the case with his partner, Whitey (Fishburne), Sean must now follow the leads, no matter who they may lead to.

First and foremost, this is an actor's picture. Penn, who continues to stand as one of the best actors of his generation, delivers a powerful performance. As a man with a past, Jimmy feels that maybe that past had something to do with his daughter's death. When he learns of her death, you can feel his pain and anguish. Bacon, dealing with his own personal problems, shows a quiet confidence while proving to his partner that he can separate his feelings from the case. But it is Robbins who carries the film. After being overshadowed in such films as "The Shawshank Redemption," his character is, above all, the centerpiece of the film. With stooped shoulders and a quiet tone, you can feel the hurt he still carries from his abduction. When he speaks of the past, you can see, and feel, the pain behind his eyes. The common thread here is "what if?" Throughout the film, both Jimmy and Sean can only wonder how their lives would have been altered if they had been the one to get in the car as a kid. Harden and Linney do a great job as Dave and Jimmy's wives. Harden has her own suspicions while Linney proves to be the strong rock Jimmy needs to keep him going.

Extra credit to director Eastwood for the haunting musical score, which he composed along with long-time collaborator Lennie Niehaus. After almost 50 years in Hollywood, Eastwood proves that he is still a powerful force in filmmaking. Come Oscar time, I hope the Academy recognizes that force. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Mystic River"  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Mystic River" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.