Review: Mystic River (2003)

mystic river poster

“Sometimes I think, I think all three of us got in that car…”
– Sean Devine

Three boyhood friends encounter a dreadful turn of events when two hebephiles pick one of them up. Dave Boyle (Cameron Bowen) never stood a chance, and Jimmy Markum (Jason Kelly) and Sean Devine (Connor Paolo) are left to watch their friend being taken away while under the assumption that he was picked up by cops. Their fathers have a fit and soon everyone is looking for Dave. Dave manages to escape from the two men after days of abuse and return home. Their childhoods have been changed forever.

mystic river the boys

“I guess I don’t know my own strength.” – Young Dave

Twenty five years later they have each moved on with their lives in different directions. Jimmy (Sean Penn) quit the criminal life and owns a little store and has a wife and three daughters, Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a detective with the Massachusetts State Police with a wife who has run off and Dave (Tim Robbins) is a regular blue-collar Joe with a son and a wife. Jimmy has a nineteen-year-old daughter named Katie (Emmy Rossum) who plans to run off with her boyfriend Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry) and get married in Las Vegas, though Jimmy has no inkling of this. However, those plans stop dead in their tracks when Katie goes out with her friends one night for a final party and is brutally murdered on the way home. Just like that, it seems that the three parted friends will come together again.

mystic river jimmy finds out katie is dead

“I know in my soul I contributed to your death.” – Jimmy Markum

Jimmy is crushed to learn that his little girl was murdered. Sean feels for his friend when he sees the man, though pleads with him to keep his in-laws and all those criminals out of it so that he can conduct his investigation without hassles. Sean and his partner Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) track down every available lead to bring justice to Katie. Sean, on the other hand, has put the Savage brothers on the lookout, with Val (Kevin Chapman) in the lead. His wife, Katie’s stepmother Annabeth (Laura Linney) knows that her husband may need to exact revenge on whoever screwed up his daughter’s life. On the other hand, Dave’s marriage strains when he returns home the night of Katie’s murder covered in blood and spinning a flimsy story of having retaliated when a mugger attempted to attack him, and his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) soon decides that Dave must have killed the young girl. She is terrified, and soon the investigation touches onto her husband, and her paranoia goes into overdrive.

mystic river interview

“How long till you catch my daughter’s killer? I need to know.” – Jimmy Markum

What happened to Katie Markum that night? Who killed her? Is Dave in any way connected to the gruesome events of that night? Will Jimmy be able to hold his things together? What will the investigation turn up? Will Jimmy and his family ever recover? Will Sean bring them peace of mind? What will Celeste do about Dave?

An 8/10 for Mystic River. I was really impressed with how loyal the movie remained to the book. Naturally, there were a few small changes, but nothing that actually detracted from the story or the progression and development. I thought it had an excellent cast that manages to capture and portray the characters almost exactly as you would perceive them to be from the books. Sean Penn was the embodiment of Jimmy Marcus (books, Markum in the film), and Kevin Bacon completely held down the part of embittered cop who is separated from his wife and on a mission. All in all it came together well – the pacing was right, I enjoyed the camerawork, the performances very good, though I did find the music to be a bit strange, like something from a much older movie altogether. I would recommend this film, not only to readers, but to anyone that enjoys a good and solid drama. Clint Eastwood did a damn fine job of bringing this depiction of Mystic River to the fore, and is incredibly impressive.

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20 thoughts on “Review: Mystic River (2003)

  1. Ryan says:

    Such a great film. I haven’t read the novel but it’s nice to see that they didn’t stray too far from the source material. Such a rare thing to see with adaptations like this. Great review.

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  2. Tom says:

    Great review Zoe! Haha this is actually more proof of why reviews are so handy and why yours in particular are so good. . . my parents own this (I think) yet I have not seen a single second of it, and this is in all honesty not at ALL what I imagined it to be about, so with that behind me now i must get to seeing it. Sounds really good and I just saw Sean Penn in Walter Mitty and been reminded of how interesting of an actor he really is.

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    • Zoë says:

      Thanks Tom! I really appreciate that! Sounds like I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing teehee. You should really look into it. Sean Penn is pretty good, I enjoy him at any rate!

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  3. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Zoe. Watched this a little of ways back and man, I was floored. The acting from everybody here is so amazing, it’s a wonder how they didn’t all just get nominated for Oscars. Then again though, Robbins and Penn won, so I guess that’s fine.

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  4. Susu says:

    When I finally got to watch Mystic River, I was mesmerized by the acting of the ensemble cast. I watched this movie twice, alone and again with my husband. The content of the movie is relevant in any time frame. Upon watching it the second time I noticed “small” things that tied the movie and its characters together. Forgiveness, no I would not classify any of the characters as forgiving. It is very clear that Dave probably never receive counseling for the unspeakable crime done to him as a boy, Jimmy never really let go of his “on edge nerve” and Sean remains the responsible friend but not afraid to face life’s messes. To watch a human drama unfold with such sad consequences and heavy retribution on one hand and little to no retribution on the other hand is a depiction that life is not always fair and some of us receive the bounty of life, while others get the smaller piece of pie.

    This movie was well acted and well directed. I will never forget Sean Penn’s portrayal of Jimmy in this star ensemble cast.

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    • Zoë says:

      Hi Susu! Thanks for the comment. Did you read the book? I love what you have to say, because it hits the mark for each of those characters extremely well. The movie was very well put together, and Sean Penn was absolutely fantastic here!

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