2003-10-31 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder


Whether he intended to or not, Director Clint Eastwood has tapped into an intensely sensitive subject with his new film, "Mystic River." As headlines scream over sexual abuse by Catholic priests, Eastwood dives into the controversy head-on in the opening scene of his movie.
  Ten year olds Danny Boyle, Jimmy Markum  and Sean Devine are playing stickball in the working class streets of South Boston, when they decide to scratch their names in wet cement. An ominous dark sedan pulls up and out struts two supposed police detectives. They order Danny into the car. But before they drive off with the terrified boy, one of the "cops" reveals a gold ring on his finger adorned with a crucifix. While the implication is that he may be a priest, he definitely is a pederast…as is his partner.

After endearing days of molestation, Danny "escapes from the wolves." However, he can’t escape from the horror that has infected his psyche. Years later, adult Danny (Tim Robbins) is shell of a man forever haunted by his loathsome memories. He may be a good husband and father, but he walks the streets trying to shake the spooks from his head. When the pretty daughter of his former friend, Jimmy, (Sean Penn), is brutally murdered, Danny is the prime suspect, even though the homicide detective is his other childhood buddy Sean (Kevin Bacon). It doesn’t help that Danny arrived home on the night of the murder with blood on his hands…something not missed by his wife, Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden).

Based on Dennis Lehane bestseller, "Mystic River" is far more than a simple whodunit. It is a movie about performances. And, the three lead actors give some of the best work of their careers. While the pulp soap opera is thick, the plot weaves and winds steadily like a polluted stream through the dark recesses of its not-so-innocent characters. Danny may be victim, but his former buddy Jimmy has done his share of evil and has plenty to hide. Detective Devine has a pregnant wife, who has run away and we don’t’ know why. She makes anonymous calls to him, without saying a word. Through Devine, Eastwood shows us a detective, whose reality puts Hollywood Dirty Harry to shame. It’s solid acting by Bacon, who has never been better. But Robbins provides the work that stays with you. Danny’s pain is so complete that, at times, he seems brain-dead. Yet, he manages to outwit Devine’s aggressive police partner, Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne).

"Mystic River" is a major achievement by Eastwood and company that may give him his next Best Picture Oscar after "Unforgiven." As a director, he has a flair for films about tortured souls unredeemed by revenge.

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