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Movie Review: Mystic River

Alternate Title: Suffer the Little Children

Story: In a vain attempt to help overcome my severe jet lag after being out of the country for a few weeks I sought an all American film to jolt my psyche. I made a good choice with this powerful, hard to forget film directed by Clint Eastwood from a novel by Dennis Lehane (screenplay by Brian Helgeland).

Set in contemporary working class, Irish Catholic Boston it is a story of murder, revenge, loyalty, guilt, childhood trauma and its long ranging aftermath. Eastwood, deftly allows this story to be viewed on many levels. It can be viewed as simply a murder mystery or as I found it to be - with multitiered Shakespearean overtones throughout. This is the stuff that sticks with you long after you leave the theater. To think, or not to think...that is the question.

Acting: An amazing cast lead by Sean Penn as he explodes right off the screen. He is one heck of an actor and this sure to be award winning performance is reason enough to see this film. Tim Robbins plays against type and with his restrained performance hits just the right tone for his wounded character. Kevin Bacon, in another solid performance, nails his role as the kid who got out of the neighborhood but is dragged back after the murder of his old friend's daughter. Laura Linney is always solid and Marcia Gay Harden, as the hand wringing sniffling wife (while a bit annoying) is right on the money. Laurence Fishburne, the only non-Irish face in the cast, is back as an actor and it's a welcome relief to see him working again after his bloated Matrix mistake. And finally, young Tom Guiry (who is someone to watch) is powerful as the boyfriend of the murdered woman.

Predilection: A great cast often will get me into a theater.

Critters: A black cat seen crossing the street.

Food: Sandwiches and stuff one eats after a funeral and lots of booze.

Visual Art: Not much great art to see in this working class neighborhood.

Blatant Product Placement: Sprite and many other visible brand name products as one of the characters owns a grocery store.

Soundtrack: A melancholy, haunting score by Clint Eastwood.

Opening Titles: None.

Theater Audience: Packed in the middle of a Thursday afternoon.

Sappy Factor: Sappy would have been appreciated for a change -- but there is no sap in this painful film.

Squirm Scale: 2 - the subject of pedophilia has got to warrant a squirm rating.

Predictability Level: Moderate.

Tissue Usage: 1

Oscar Worthy: Absolutely.

Nit Picking: I thought the two scenes seemed to be tacked on and were superfluous. It also added an unnecessary 10 minutes to an already fine film.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. For some other films directed by Clint Eastwood you might want to rent: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Bridges of Madison County, A Perfect World, Unforgiven, The Rookie, Bird, Heartbreak Ridge, Pale Rider, Sudden Impact, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Eiger Sanction, Breezy, High Plains Drifter and Play Misty for Me.

Length: Those unnecessary ten minutes made it to go over the 2 hour Lobo rule.