MYSTIC RIVER (2004). Director: Clint Eastwood.
Since he's always been perceived as a Hollywood conservative it's amusing that Eastwood teamed up with two famous Hollywood liberals, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, to make this acclaimed but disappointing feature. Three little boys playing in the street are interrupted by an intense fellow whom they imagine is a cop. He takes one of the three into his car and the boy isn't seen until he escapes from the creep three days later. Flash forward to when all three men are grown and the daughter of one of them – Sean Penn's character – is found murdered in a park. That same night Tim Robbins – he was the boy who was kidnapped and molested years earlier -- comes home to his wife covered in blood. Much of what happens next is quite predictable, and the script offers few real surprises to a wide-awake viewer. Eastwood directs with professional assurance if not a lot of inspiration; mostly he just lets the actors do the work. Tim Robbins is simply superb, completely losing himself in his tormented character, but Sean Penn, generally one of our best actors, is getting sloppy. Penn never seems to get a handle on his character and falls back into a standard bag of tricks that are highly unsatisfying. Kevin Bacon is okay as the third grown-up kid, now a homicide investigator. Mystic River is an awkward blend of mystery with mobster drama and doesn't quite work as either despite some interesting moments and performances from Robbins and a generally fine supporting cast. The ending of this film should horrify, sadden and appall, but it does none of those. Apparently Eastwood is another one of these directors who wrongly fears that emotional intensity reduces a film to a mere soap opera.
Verdict: Mystic River isn't much of anything. **.