Review: Mystic River (2003)

mystic river poster

“Sometimes I think, I think all three of us got in that car…”
– Sean Devine

Three boyhood friends encounter a dreadful turn of events when two hebephiles pick one of them up. Dave Boyle (Cameron Bowen) never stood a chance, and Jimmy Markum (Jason Kelly) and Sean Devine (Connor Paolo) are left to watch their friend being taken away while under the assumption that he was picked up by cops. Their fathers have a fit and soon everyone is looking for Dave. Dave manages to escape from the two men after days of abuse and return home. Their childhoods have been changed forever.

mystic river the boys
“I guess I don’t know my own strength.” – Young Dave

Twenty five years later they have each moved on with their lives in different directions. Jimmy (Sean Penn) quit the criminal life and owns a little store and has a wife and three daughters, Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a detective with the Massachusetts State Police with a wife who has run off and Dave (Tim Robbins) is a regular blue-collar Joe with a son and a wife. Jimmy has a nineteen-year-old daughter named Katie (Emmy Rossum) who plans to run off with her boyfriend Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry) and get married in Las Vegas, though Jimmy has no inkling of this. However, those plans stop dead in their tracks when Katie goes out with her friends one night for a final party and is brutally murdered on the way home. Just like that, it seems that the three parted friends will come together again.

mystic river jimmy finds out katie is dead
“I know in my soul I contributed to your death.” – Jimmy Markum

Jimmy is crushed to learn that his little girl was murdered. Sean feels for his friend when he sees the man, though pleads with him to keep his in-laws and all those criminals out of it so that he can conduct his investigation without hassles. Sean and his partner Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) track down every available lead to bring justice to Katie. Sean, on the other hand, has put the Savage brothers on the lookout, with Val (Kevin Chapman) in the lead. His wife, Katie’s stepmother Annabeth (Laura Linney) knows that her husband may need to exact revenge on whoever screwed up his daughter’s life. On the other hand, Dave’s marriage strains when he returns home the night of Katie’s murder covered in blood and spinning a flimsy story of having retaliated when a mugger attempted to attack him, and his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) soon decides that Dave must have killed the young girl. She is terrified, and soon the investigation touches onto her husband, and her paranoia goes into overdrive.

mystic river interview
“How long till you catch my daughter’s killer? I need to know.” – Jimmy Markum

What happened to Katie Markum that night? Who killed her? Is Dave in any way connected to the gruesome events of that night? Will Jimmy be able to hold his things together? What will the investigation turn up? Will Jimmy and his family ever recover? Will Sean bring them peace of mind? What will Celeste do about Dave?

An 8/10 for Mystic River. I was really impressed with how loyal the movie remained to the book. Naturally, there were a few small changes, but nothing that actually detracted from the story or the progression and development. I thought it had an excellent cast that manages to capture and portray the characters almost exactly as you would perceive them to be from the books. Sean Penn was the embodiment of Jimmy Marcus (books, Markum in the film), and Kevin Bacon completely held down the part of embittered cop who is separated from his wife and on a mission. All in all it came together well – the pacing was right, I enjoyed the camerawork, the performances very good, though I did find the music to be a bit strange, like something from a much older movie altogether. I would recommend this film, not only to readers, but to anyone that enjoys a good and solid drama. Clint Eastwood did a damn fine job of bringing this depiction of Mystic River to the fore, and is incredibly impressive.

Review: Mystic River – Dennis Lehane

dennis lehane mystic river book cover

Jimmy Marcus is from a lower class neighbourhood and Sean Devine from the more middle class family, though the two are good childhood friends. Jimmy has a boy named Dave Boyle who tails him everywhere, an added friend so to speak. One day while scuffling around outside over a disagreement, a car rolls up and takes Dave with them under the pretext of being cops. The boys are young and gullible, but it is only Dave that is foolish enough to join them. Dave disappeared for four days before he finally escaped, which was certainly not part of the plan. Dave suffered terrible atrocities at the hands of two monsters. Naturally the friends grow apart due to age as well as the tragedy that struck them.

Many years later the boys have grown into men with jobs, families and responsibilities. Jimmy Marcus followed his natural crazy roots and landed himself in prison, and while he was inside his wife Marita died. His daughter, Katie, was left behind, and after he was let out, Jimmy swore onto the good life, the straight and narrow for Katie. Having remarried to Annabeth and having two more daughters with her, his life seems set. Running a little store in the Flats, Jimmy is doing well for himself. Except one morning when Katie does not come in to work without word. She misses out her sister’s First Communion, and when Jimmy leaves the church he sees that cops have gathered around Penitentiary Park like flies. He knows, in the pit of his stomach, that this is about Katie, and muscles his way into the crime scene where he discovers her abandoned and bloody car. The officer to respond to Jimmy and keep him back just so happens to be Sean Devine, who has chosen a life in law enforcement.

Jimmy’s life crumbles when his Katie is discovered to be shot and beaten in Penitentiary Park. Dave Boyle, however, has bigger fish to fry when he returns home on the night of Katie’s murder covered in blood and brain matter to his wife, Celeste. He claims that he was mugged and just lost his temper completely. Naturally, when Celeste hears about Katie’s murder, her mind runs rampant, and Dave is acting very strange indeed. He is lying about everything about the night of the murder. Sean swears to investigate the murder thoroughly; meanwhile Jimmy is out for blood. His relations, the Savages, are intent on finding out what went down that night and who needs to pay for the gruesome deed that they performed.

Sean is desperate to keep Jimmy out of this and do his job, all the while suffering his own personal issues what with his wife, Lauren, who left him. Will Sean be able to figure out quickly enough what happened to Katie the night her soul was ripped from the earth? Will Jimmy let the law takes its natural course, or is his thirst for vengeance that strong that reason becomes a myth? What happened with Dave Boyle the night Katie was killed? Was he present and involved? Was there another issue that captivated his attention? Was he truly mugged?

GRADE 8.5I have never read a Dennis Lehane novel before (scandalous, I know), though I enjoyed so many of the film adaptions that were bred from his books. I remember enjoying the movie for Mystic River when it came out, but that was so long ago I couldn’t even remember the content. Which works me out fine; it is all fresh for me. I cannot tell you how unprepared I was for how much I was going to enjoy the book. It is tightly written with a great story and pretty great characters that have depth and meaning and emotions that are right out there to see. There is progression to the story that moves at a reasonable pace, and plenty of situations that you can identify with or that will leave you wondering. The writing style was also completely unexpected for me and I really, really enjoyed it. The reflections of the three main characters as well as their pasts that continually come up is good, and the writing was very consistent. Everything was intertwining, the reactions were spot on and you could identify with the situations. Jimmy Marcus was an especially good character with a lot of depth and a lot of thoughts and emotions. He was the most interesting for me of all the childhood friends, and not just because he was dangerous, but because he had that it factor going for him. Sean was average, completely average and bitter. Dave was the most psychologically screwed of them all, which was also completely understandable.