Mystic River (2003)

Rating: B

Dir: Clint Eastwood
Star: Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Lawrence Fishburne

I think I skipped this at the cinema, because my subconscious told me it was a sequel to chick-flick Mystic Pizza, so Penn, Bacon, etc. would love, laugh and bond in a touching story of…you get the pic. Only stumbling across it on cable disavowed me of this belief: it’s actually a dark psychological drama. Three kids are playing on the street when one is abducted and abused in a cellar: when they grow up, Jimmy (Penn) owns a corner-shop; Sean (Bacon) works in homicide, while Dave the victim (Robbins) is still traumatised. When Jimmy’s daughter is brutally slain, Dave and his partner (Fishburne) investigate, but Jimmy is doing his own sleuthing – with rather less restraint – only to find suspicion points its lethal finger straight at Dave.

Early on, this is a fabulous page-turner of a movie, where you can’t take your eyes off the screen for fear of missing what happens next. There’s a point, however, about two-thirds through, where it becomes pretty clear what’s going to happen: from here, it feels more like Shakespearean tragedy in its inevitability. About the only problem (save about five unnecessary minutes at the end) is Dave, who is so painfully obvious – either as killer or red-herring – as to overshadow Robbins’ solid performance. Indeed, all the acting is great: Penn got most of the kudos, but I think Bacon is equally as good, and the supporting cast is fine too. As a brutal depiction of the reality of misdirected violence, spiralling down through the year, it’s an impressive piece of work. And not an Annabel Gish to be found, thank heavens.