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mystic river

Updated on December 25, 2012

four stars

What starts as a film concerning another police case develops into a story of small town organized crime. The majority of the story focuses on the police investigation of the murder of Katie Markum (Emmy Rossum), and whether or not a strange acting Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) committed the murder.

The whole event reunites three childhood friends, Dave Boyle, James Markum (Sean Penn), and Sean Devin (Kevin Bacon). James is obviously the father of the victim, and Sean is the state police detective investigating the case. Over time it becomes clearer and clearer that Dave probably murdered Katie. He saw her in the last bar she was in on the night in question. On that night he returns home late with someone else's blood on him and a cut across his torso. He acts strangely and seems to descend into insanity talking about werewolves and vampires. When it appears clear to James that Dave is the culprit the unknown organized crime angle is revealed. James has some of his local partners in crime get Dave drunk at the beach where he then murders him at night fall.

However, at the very same time Sean captures Katie's true murderers. Apparently, Dave did not murder Katie or the mugger he suggested but a known pedophile. Consequently, Sean is now looking for Dave. James then reveals he murdered Dave, but Sean does nothing. Annabeth Markum (Laura Linny) James' wife then thanks him for killing Dave even though he was innocent because it shows what he will do for his family. She then gives an excellent Lady MacBeth-esque speech about how he could be king of the town. The final seen shows Sean on one side of the street and James on the other side while at a parade. Sean then aims his finger like a gun and pulls the trigger. James only holds up his hands as if to say, "What do you want." Usually, I find that these crime thrillers meet par maybe three to three and half stars.

However, there is something else going on in this film. The whole development of James as the father of a victim to crime thug is interesting. There is only the slightest hint of his nature at the beginning when he is depicted as an eight year old talking back to an alleged cop. The story line concerning whether or not Dave is the murder is also somewhat thrilling; however, it relies on the fact that the movie does not show you one scene. It only shows you the scene as a flashback when Dave is about to be murdered. I would rather see this alibi scene in chronological order.

Then the film might evoke a different feeling. Instead of a thrilling suspicion of Dave a hatred for all the other characters who suspect him with limited evidence. This theme concerning the need for evidence in punishing criminals, a theme of presumed innocent until proven guilty, is already in the film. The ending, of course, is all about this. Additionally, there is a fantastic scene where Sean's partner Whitey Powers (Luarence Fishburn) impounds Dave's car as if it were stolen. Basically, he steals the car with police force and ingenuity. He then processes the car finding multiple blood types.

One belongs to Dave and the other is the same blood type as Katie. However, it is also the same blood type as the pedophile Dave killed. Powers asks Dave about this blood in the trunk, but Dave outsmarts his plan. He points out that the car was allegedly stolen; therefore, the people who stole the car must have done something because he knows nothing about it. Circumventing police procedures that protect liberty does not pay in the end. The element I thought could use more development is the relation of the beginning to the rest of the story. As a child Dave is abducted by someone posing to be a police officer. This is what makes him act strange. All the physical and mental trauma damaged him for life. This does provide some motivation for killing the pedophile, for he was sexually abused during the abduction. However, the pedophile story is only revealed at the end of the movie.

The event also casts suspicion on Dave. Being a victim of child molestation makes him more likely to sexually abuse and murder others. Another connection between the early childhood event and the rest of the movie is that all three characters were together when Dave is abducted. After that they do not remain friends. There is only the casual hello around the neighborhood. However, Katie's murder brings are three individuals back into the same story line. These are all the dots I see in relation to that scene and the whole storyline, but I do not see how they connect. Maybe I am missing something.

I am sure to watch the movie again at some later point. Laura Linny's Lady MacBeth, Sean Penn's attire when he murder's Dave, and the ending parade scene are enough motivation for me alone. Maybe at that point I will understand why the story is about Dave's abduction.


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