Clint Eastwood's Mystic River is a serviceable film serving up a pretty good story. I like the way he lets the film unfold at a leisurely pace, but every time a big scene comes up--the kidnapping that opens up the film, for example, he slathers on the big orchestral music and has the camera lurch around in a stylish way. I wish he'd just do what he does in the rest of the film, which is let the camera sit, more or less intelligently, and simply record what's going on.
The performances. Sean Penn has the showiest role, but I liked his quieter moments far better--like when he admits that his daughter scares him more than prison ever did, or when he simply reacts to a speech his wife gives, gratefully receiving her words of comfort to cover over the big gaping hole in his conscience. Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne are pretty good--Fishburne has a better role here than he ever had in the Matrix sequels, but the one I liked best was Tim Robbins. Sure his character felt underwritten and didn't make sense, but he has the look of a victim just right--like someone carrying a dark, tight knot deep in his guts that he's afraid people can see, and just the effort of carrying this around, this shameful secret, bends his back and tires him even before he gets out of bed.
The ending (skip if you plan to see the movie) pretty much flushes all that down the drain--I mean, if I were investigating and I was handed THAT as a final answer, I'd be suspicious immediately; more coincidences and unlikely happenings occur in two hours than in Oscar Wilde's entire body of work. And poor Laura Linney, who's in the background most of the film, suddenly comes forth and delivers an eloquently evil speech. She delivers it well, it sends chills down your spine (and the way Penn receives it like lotion on a fresh sunburn is equally chilling), but where the hell did it come from? If they at least established that Penn counts on Linney's advice, it would help; as it is...eh.
It's ambitious, it has its moments (particularly Penn confronting Robbins--okay, that had some suspense; I guess I much prefer the interrogation scene where Robbins outwits Bacon and Fishburne), and it's easily the best thing Eastwood's ever done. But...would it be blasphemous to say I prefer the Looney Tunes movie?