'Mystic River' boggles the mind

    ne of the great virtues of having a living legend direct a film is that he is sure to attract a great cast. “”Mystic River,”” if nothing else, is a wonderful ensemble of leading men playing emotionally challenging roles. The story is not of one man but of one event, and how that event affects the lives of three men. Consequently, there is no lead role and the film is able to take full advantage of the entire cast that Clint Eastwood’s presence was able to attract.

    Courtesy of Warner Bros.
    Dear friends: Sean Penn takes initiative with his trusty gun while Kevin Bacon stands by his man, in quiet support.

    Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon play boyhood friends who are still reeling from a tragedy in their youth. A murder mystery ensues and the boys-turned-men find themselves on three different sides of the caper.

    Unlike most crime films that turn quickly on the smallest of plot details, the artistry of “”Mystic River”” is delivered far more carefully than its storyline. Cinematically, the film was nearly flawless. There is a dark and brooding nervousness throughout the entire film. The constant tension starts immediately and doesn’t give up until halfway through the drive home. This deliberate apprehension comes without warning, apology or climax. While Eastwood never puts the audience on the edge of its seat, he never let them relax either.

    It is difficult to say quite where the film fits; despite its blockbuster potential and thriller-like elements, it incorporates a number of independent themes through obtusely placed philosophical references and innovative cinematography. The filmmakers seemed unwilling to commit to a wholly original feat, and got bogged down pandering to those who were all-too-delighted to devour the status quo. The film ultimately fails itself because it ends up lost in the void between moneymaking and mind bending.

    This problem manifests itself in a number of different ways, most notably in the perplexing final minutes. This is one of those rare films that can’t get out of its own way. While the tangential red herrings throughout the film help to keep the viewer guessing, they also leave the film with the cumbersome task of tying up too many loose ends. Bacon’s character has a love-life problem, the purpose of which seems to have gotten lost on the cutting room floor. Similarly Laura Linney, who plays Penn’s wife in the film, has a two-minute monologue during the finale that comes out of left field.

    While the film creates a wonderful in-theater experience, it crumbles under closer scrutiny. In due course, the film’s virtues outweigh its problems, and is a must-see for fans of Penn, Robbins, Bacon or Eastwood. While the execution of “”Mystic River”” is far outstretched by its potential, it is nonetheless a very good effort.

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