Mystic River
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          Mystic River could be a Dogma filmIt is all shot on location with no special effects.  There's no action, well, not much anyway.  Each scene typically features two members of the stellar cast talking.  That doesn't mean that Mystic River is boring. Oh no.  It's not boring. This is a tense, emotional film. Mystic River is the story of three childhood friends (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon) who have grown apart over the years. But the murder of Penn's daughter draws them back together as adults. They were already linked by a similarly horrible incident that happened to them as kids. Penn is an ex-con but he has gone straight and runs a corner store. He and Robbins still live in the same old Boston neighborhood with their wives (Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden). Bacon is now a cop and has moved away. But their lives now become intertwined again as revenger, suspect and investigator of the crime. 
     The cast and the director, Clint Eastwood, are fab and they have produced a very compelling film.  It is a bit of a whodunit but I figured it out the ending very early on.  But who cares. This movie is mostly about the characters. It is great to watch these actors at work.  Laura Linney, who is only briefly onscreen and must have taken this part just to work with Eastwood, does amazing things in her 5 minutes.  The rest of them have a lot more to work with.  Penn and Robbins, in particular, shine.  The only thing I'll say against Sean Penn is his hair. He has never changed it in 20 years!  Laurence Fishburne appears as Bacon's partner.  Just to show how this film is different, Fishburne doesn't get killed as all sidekicks are supposed to.  It is very weird seeing him not playing Morpheus.
Mystic River isn't a happy film. It is a very moody piece. About the only comic relief is provided by Penn's cronies, the Savage brothers (Adam Nelson, Kevin Chapman, Robert Wahlberg). Think of them as the Hanson brothers if they were wise guys. You could argue that Runaway Jury has more star power than Mystic River with Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman and their twelve career Oscar nominations, but they are the old guard and the cast of Mystic River are in their prime. This cast has had seven previous Oscar nominations (Penn has three; Robbins, Fishburne, Linney, and Harden have one each; Bacon has none) but only one win (Harden for Pollock).  But Mystic River should produce a few more nominations for them and their director, Eastwood, already a winner for Unforgiven. You should see this one!