Mystic River

Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood, is a murder mystery, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, which takes place in working class East Buckingham close to the river that runs near Boston’s Logan Airport. When the film begins, three eleven-year-olds are playing street hockey (without the ice). A freshly cemented sidewalk block beckons them to inscribe their names for posterity. Jimmy Markum, the instigator, begins, followed by Sean Devine, but before David Boyle can spell out more than two letters of his name, a car door opens. A man posing as a police officer chastises the boys for defacing public property and then orders David into the car so that he can be taken home so that his mother will know of his misconduct. However, David is instead abducted, molested sexually for several days; after he escapes, he returns home psychologically damaged. Next, the scene shifts to a time twenty-five years later. Sean (played by Kevin Bacon) is a Massachusetts State Police officer whose wife walked out on him without explanation six months earlier. Jimmy (played by Sean Penn), who served two years in prison for theft, is happily married, has three daughters, and is the proprietor of a convenience store. David (played by Tim Robbins), still psychologically scarred, is married and has a son. One day the murdered body of Katie (played by Emmy Rossum), Sean’s nineteen-year-old daughter, is discovered in a park; the same day David beats to death a child molester, whom he dumps into the Mystic, but that body is not discovered. Sean and his partner Whitey Powers (played by Laurence Fishburne) are assigned the case about Katie, interview various witnesses, match the murder gun to the father of the dead girl’s secret boyfriend, Val Savage (played by Kevin Chapman), but cannot find a motive for the crime. Jimmy, meanwhile, extremely upset over the death of his daughter, is impatient that the investigation is taking so long. Calling upon his two underworld buddies to conduct an investigation of their own, he concludes that David is guilty, though again no motive is demonstrable. Pressured by Sean and his goons to confess the crime, David admits that he killed a child molester, but that does not satisfy Jimmy. Meanwhile, Val goes home after intensive police interrogation, only to discover that his father’s gun is not in the usual hiding place. He then confronts his two younger brothers, and the motive for the crime emerges. One of his brothers, having enjoyed sex with him, was jealous of Katie, especially on learning that the two planned to elope and get married in Las Vegas. Police break into the boys’ apartment just in time, as one brother points the gun at Val, but filmviewers will find out whether the police act in time to prevent Jimmy from carrying out a Mystic River homicide of David. An apparent reworking of the true story told in Sleepers (1996), Mystic River demonstrates that the desire for revenge may produce criminal acts in otherwise decent people, whether unleashed because of the death of one’s own child or due to the long-lasting psychological effect of teenage sexual abuse. MH

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