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'Mystic River' ranks among Clint Eastwood's best work

Mystic River

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Yesterday, this column reviewed "Milk," which came out in 2008 and won Sean Penn his second Academy Award. The talented actor, once known for bad boy teen roles, won his first for "Mystic River," which came out in 2003.

"Mystic River" is a working-class man's whodunit set in a grimy Boston neighborhood. It begins with childhood friends Dave, Sean, and Jimmy playing hockey in the streets. Dave is abducted by a child molester posing as a cop. He is held and abused for several days before escaping. After this, the three friends go their own separate ways. Years later, they are reunited when Jimmy's (played by Penn) daughter is found murdered. Sean (played by Kevin Bacon) is the detective investigating the case. Dave (played by Tim Robbins) slowly becomes a suspect.

"Mystic River" is directed by Clint Eastwood, who does a great job creating the feel of Boston. The look and the accents are all authentic. Eastwood gives us several characters who are understandably mistrusting of the law enforcement community (note that Dave's abuse was a result of trusting a man he thought was a cop) and who feel entitled to enacting their own justice system, even though it is as flawed as the official one.

The screenplay is very strong. We are never quite sure until the end who committed the murder. Also, there are a lot of memorable characters, none of whom are perfect.

The cast is excellent. Sean Penn is perfect as Jimmy, an ex-con who is desperate to find his daughter's killer. Tim Robbins is also great as Dave, who is still haunted by his childhood tragedy as a middle-aged man. Kevin Bacon is very good as Sean, the most outwardly successful of the three friends. Another great performance is by Marcia Gay Harden as Dave's wife, who is scared he may be a murderer. Laura Linney also strong, playing Jimmy's wife.

"Mystic River" is one of Clint Eastwood's strongest films.