When they were kids growing up together in a rough section of Boston, Jimmy Markum, Dave Boyle and Sean Devine spent their days playing stickball on the street, the way most boys did in their blue-collar neighborhood of East Buckingham. Nothing much out of the ordinary ever happened, until a moment's decision drastically altered the course of each of their lives forever. Twenty-five years later, the three find themselves thrust back together by another tragic event--the murder of Jimmy's 19-year-old daughter. Now a cop, Sean is assigned to the case and he and his partner are charged with unraveling the seemingly senseless crime. In the wake of the sudden and terrible loss of his child, Jimmy's mind becomes consumed with revenge--and his own plans to find the killer. Caught up in the maelstrom is Dave, now a lost and broken man fighting to keep his demons at bay. As the investigation creeps closer to home, his wife Celeste becomes consumed by suspicion and fear, while Jimmy's wife, Annabeth, draws her family tighter together in order to weather the storm.
Clint Eastwood's film, scrupulously faithful to the letter and sprit of Dennis Lehane's novel, has the gritty efficiency of superior crime fiction and the somber weight of tragedy. Set in working-class Irish Catholic Boston, this film revisits the themes of violence, honor and guilt that have haunted many of Mr. Eastwood's movies; it is among the most humane of his films, but also the most rigorously pessimistic. Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn play Dave, Sean and Jimmy, boyhood friends who must revisit the traumas of their youth when Jimmy's daughter is murdered. Sean and his partner (Laurence Fishburne) must investigate the killing, which it appears Dave may have committed. The performances are first rate. Marcia Gay Harden, as Dave's wife, Celeste, and Laura Linney, as her cousin Annabeth, who is married to Jimmy, expand the film's emotional compass, allowing us to see how grief ripples through families and communities. Mr. Penn's volcanic, furiously disciplined performance is surely one of the best pieces of screen acting you'll see this year; it may even be one of the finest ever. — A. O. Scott
2003-10-03 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Mystic River