The DVD Journal | Quick Reviews: Mystic River
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Mystic River

In the course of transporting their audience into the gritty, close-knit Boston neighborhood created so vividly in Dennis Lehane's novel, Mystic River (2003) director Clint Eastwood and stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurence Fishburne, and Laura Linney prove beyond a doubt that they're some of the most talented professionals in the film business. And that's a combination that doesn't always go hand-in-hand — plenty of actors and directors are talented without having the kind of focus and discipline needed to make a movie like Mystic River work, because it's a beast of a picture. The story opens on friends Jimmy (Jason Kelly), Sean (Connor Paolo), and Dave (Cameron Bowen), street-hockey-playing, blue-collar kids whose lives change irrevocably when one of them becomes the victim of unspeakable abuse. Years later — long after they've drifted apart — another tragedy brings the three back together, albeit in very different circumstances: Now Sean (Bacon) is the detective investigating the murder of Jimmy's (Penn) 19-year-old daughter (Emmy Rossum), a crime in which Dave (Robbins) is a prime suspect. Complicating matters further are Jimmy's checkered past, Dave's tremulous wife Celeste (Harden), and the neighborhood itself — with memories of past and present everywhere they look, the characters become mired in an inescapable swamp of suspicion, blame, and guilt. All of which is like manna from heaven for actors: It's easy to see why the cast was attracted to screenwriter Brian Helgeland's skillful adaptation of Lehane's dark, complex book. Penn and Robbins both won Oscars for their no-holds-barred performances (an award particularly well-deserved by Robbins, whose gut-wrenching work as the haunted, simmering Dave is a career high), and their co-stars are no slouches, either. Bacon gives Sean just the right amount of city polish and world-weariness, Harden expertly portrays Celeste's growing fear and doubt, and Linney is fierce as Jimmy's wife Annabeth. And then, of course, there's Eastwood behind the scenes. The erstwhile Dirty Harry — who also composed the film's wistful score — cements his reputation as an actor's director here; his confidence in his cast's skills are clear, and he lets them do the job they were hired to do. The result is something modern Hollywood doesn't see everyday: a veritable perfect storm of intelligent, grown-up dramatic movie-making. Befitting a film made by adults for adults, the extras on Warner's three-disc deluxe edition of Mystic River are appropriately serious and in-depth. Disc One offers the movie in a beautiful anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), with strong Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a French 5.1 track and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available), as well as a laid-back, good-humored commentary track by Robbins and Bacon. Disc Two boasts the lion's share of the extras, including two behind-the-scenes featurettes (despite what's promised on the box, "Mystic River: Beneath the Surface," does not feature a neighborhood tour with Lehane), two trailers, and two hours' worth of Eastwood, Robbins, and Bacon chatting it up on "The Charlie Rose Show." Disc Three is a soundtrack CD. Three-disc digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Betsy Bozdech

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