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Mystic River Review

Updated on June 26, 2020

Mystic River (2003) review

This is one of those classic Academy Award winning movies that is close to flawless. It is a dark and gritty detective story on the surface, but so much more underneath. This might be one of the best scripts ever written, in my opinion. It is definitely deserving of all the accolades. The Best Actor Award went to Sean Penn for this role, and Tim Robbins also won for Best Supporting actor. He was phenomenal as well.


Mystic River (2003) was written by Brian Helgeland and directed by Clint Eastwood. It stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne. Three boys growing up in Boston are playing outside one day when a car pulls up and demands one of the boys get in. He is kept by two men for four days before he manages to escape. Twenty-five years later, the three boys still live in the same area. Dave (Robbins), the boy who was taken, is married with a family but has never been the same. Sean (Bacon) grew up to be a homicide detective and Jimmy (Penn) has a criminal history and did two years in prison, but has since retired from crime due to his love for his daughter, Katie. Then one day Katie turns up dead and it is up to Sean to catch the killer before Jimmy takes the law into his own hands.


What you have is a neo-noir detective story with plenty of mystery around every corner. This film is also about the effects of trauma on a person long-term and how three friends who experience something traumatic together are forever connected. I can’t over emphasize how great this script was. There were just so many moving parts in this story, there are even things to catch after a second or third viewing. The acting was beyond superb, especially from Sean Penn. The part where he is at the crime scene and he discovers his daughter has been murdered, you can really feel his pain and anger, the emotions just rolling off him. Truly remarkable performance. Tim Robbins as well, his portrayal of a broken man who faces the torment of what he endured as a child every day of his life.


If you are reading this review so you can decide if you want to see this film or not, just stop reading and go watch it. Don’t expect any laughs, though.

Cast trivia

  • Clint Eastwood narrated the teaser trailer.
  • Forest Whitaker was the original choice for Whitey Powers and almost accepted, but backed out due to other commitments.
  • Michael Keaton was originally cast as Sean Devine. He had done several script readings with the rest of the principal cast, and he had been doing research for the role with the Massachusetts State Police Department, and living in Boston for several weeks. A month before principal photography was to start, Keaton and producer and director Clint Eastwood got into a huge argument, and Keaton left the project.
  • Tim Robbins and Sean Penn both won Oscars for their roles in this film.
  • Tim Robbins and Sean Penn were Clint Eastwood's choices for the leads from the beginning.
  • Laura Linney is the only major cast member that doesn't cuss in this movie.
  • Laura Linney shot this film at the same time as Love Actually, commuting across the Atlantic for both shoots.

Production trivia

  • Mystic River had a budget of 25 million dollars, and a worldwide gross of 156.5 million dollars.
  • This film was released on October 15, 2003 and was produced and distributed by Warner Bros.
  • Mystic River was filmed in Massachusetts and Los Angeles.
  • While researching his character's occupation, Kevin Bacon worked in the office of the Massachusetts State Police.
  • The author of the novel can be seen waving from the back of a convertible in the parade sequence.
  • The movie was shot in 39 days.
  • The studio executives a Warner Bros. wanted Eastwood to shoot the film in Toronto, Canada to save money. Eastwood refused and pushed to have the movie shot in Boston where it is set.

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