Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day Twenty-Two: Mystic River

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #212
Year: 2003
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Sean Penn and Tim Robbins

Hey, Day Twenty-Two is like twenty minutes after Day Twenty-One. What gives? If you missed it on my last post, I was too tired/unwell/lazy to post on Friday, so I'm posting for Friday and Saturday now, late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Forgive me. Anyhow, today I'm talking about yet another Clint Eastwood movie because I'm completely addicted to the man and I think he can do little wrong. Mystic River broke his eleven-year streak of mediocrity that started after Unforgiven and set him on his current unbroken seven film streak of complete and utter greatness. It's a huge turning point in his career, one that showed that he can make great films besides westerns. Up until this one, there was considerable doubt. Needless to say, he's been driving it into our heads basically nonstop since then that he's one of the greatest directors of all time and deserves all the praise he gets, but it took something to start it all, and that something is Mystic River.

And boy, is it ever something. This is Clint using every fantastic trick in the Clint Eastwood Directing Handbook in one movie. He gets performances from his three male leads (Penn, Robbins, and Kevin Bacon playing former childhood friends reunited by happenstance and the death of Penn's daughter) that are unrivaled in quality by any three megastars in any movie I've seen. He captures the seedy side of Boston even better than The Departed – not to imply that Scorsese was directly trying to one-up this film when he made it, but it's a logical point of comparison, and Eastwood trounces it – and makes it look like a truly terrible place to live if people can get away with the kind of shit that we see people getting away with in this movie.

While the detective case keeps the plot clicking along, and while there are plenty of impressive individual moments, what really makes Mystic River special is the indelible mark that a certain event from the three friends' childhood left on their lives. Without it, none of their actions would be the same, and none of their lives would have been the same. This is mentioned directly a few times, but it's not rammed down our throats. We're allowed to see how it affected the people involved, most notably in – SPOILER ALERT – Tim Robbins' character's vigilante slaying of a pedophile, which he carries out almost routinely. It seems a natural predisposition to want to kill sex predators was instilled in him by his encounter with two of them when he was a boy. That's some deep stuff, and I'm only badly retelling it. In the hands of Clint Eastwood, it's a thousand times more fucked up and emotionally resonant.

So, is this Clint's best movie? Well, no, but it's probably in his top five or six. I said it before and I'll say it again: this is a hugely important movie for Clint, because it marked the moment in time when he decided to be one of the greatest directors of all time and not just save all his best stuff for his Westerns. Penn and Robbins won Oscars for it, and that's totally understandable. If there were enough awards to go around, Kevin Bacon probably would have won one, too, but alas, there weren't. The only thing that could have made this movie better is if Clint decided to step on the other side of the camera and play a grizzled police chief or something, but that's something better left to the inevitable fan-fiction reimaginings. As it stands, this is a masterpiece, and one that will always be remembered in the Clint Canon as one of his classics.

The Good: All three lead performances and the unshakable direction of Mr. Eastwood.

The Bad: I'm just not really sure what to say here. Yeah, nothing's coming. This movie has nothing bad in it. Sorry.

The Skinny: I sound like a broken record, but it needs to be higher on the list, and that opinion can be traced directly to what an enormous Clint Eastwood fanboy I am. Oh well.


  1. I didn't really like it much when I first saw it and I consider this below Gran Torino, MDB and Changeling and not really being worth the 250 list. But when they are going to show this on TV, I'll give it another try.

  2. Fact: Fellowship of the Ring should have won best picture NOT Return of the King.
    Because if ROTK hadn't won then Mystic River would have (and it deserved it!)