Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management. Follow him on Google+. He publishes on and aNewDomain and volunteers with the Alexandria Film Festival. He is also on Linkedin. To subscribe to emailed updates about additions to this web site click here.

Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER

By Dennis D. McDonald

My mother used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything." Or maybe it was my fifth grade teacher.

Anyway, I was disappointed by Mystic River. It starts out character driven and ends up plot driven. While character driven it's engrossing. When plot driven it's unbelievable.

The acting is fun to watch. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon are three childhood buddies, now middle aged, who share a childhood experience that emotionally damaged the Robbins character. Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney play the wives of the Penn and Robbins characters. Laurence Fishburn plays a police sergeant named "Whitey."

The story: Sean Penn's 19 year old daughter is murdered. The official and unofficial investigation brings everyone together, with plot twists galore. I won't give anything away; let's just say that the movie is neither realistic nor honest in how twists are revealed, or in how critical information is unspoken. This destroys credibility and undermines the work of the actors.

What I liked: the acting, the location shooting, the realistic sets, some of the dialog. It's a pleasure to see Fishburn, for example, play a real character.

What I didn't like: the plot contrivances, the color photography (the bleaching of skin tones reduces detail and makes expressions harder to read than is necessary), and the music (by Eastwood).

(Note: I watched the single-DVD edition, which has no extras. A 3-DVD special edition exists; I'll pass.)




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