Mystic River

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Mystic River starts out strongly with a cast of interesting, unique characters and an intriguing mystery. Sean Penn’s believable grief lends a weight to the story that makes the viewer believe it’s going to be a story of consequences and meaningful revelations.

Somewhere around the middle, all of that gets forgotten in favor of a plodding pace and an obvious plot. I cannot for the life of me believe that two experienced detectives neglected to listen to the 9-1-1 tape for over half of this film. I am not kidding when I say that I knew who the murderers were as soon as they walked into the convenience store.

As for why Katie (Emmy Rossum) was killed, the viewer never gets a satisfying reason. I suspect that is part of the purpose of the film, some message about death and life being senseless and so on and so forth. However, whether that was the case or not, this is not done effectively at all. The audience gets some cobbled-together monologue from Sean (Kevin Bacon) about how the kids were playing with a gun in the street or some such nonsense.

The worst aspect of Mystic River is how long it requires the viewer to actually believe that Dave (Tim Robbins) is the culprit, to the extent that it becomes ridiculous. His childhood trauma is never explored, and its affects on him never really explained. Is he crazy, is he not? Again, perhaps the ambiguous nature of this is purposeful but, if so, it is not approached well.

A lot of the script is just weird. The last monologue from Annabeth (Laura Linney) talking about Jimmy (Sean Penn) loving his daughters and becoming king of the city would be awkward at any time, but is made even moreso because it comes just after Jimmy confesses that he wrongfully killed Dave.

Overall, Mystic River is one of those films where the viewer concludes feeling as though they must have missed something, but knowing for an absolute fact that they really didn’t.

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