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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • 3 Interviews

Mystic River

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 132 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

This film is aptly named, though the river itself plays little part in it. It’s a slow, meandering sojourn into the dark heart of inner city suburbia where lifelong connections and obligations stretch on forever, twisting and turning through the paths of least resistance.

While hailed around the world as a wildly entertaining film, I found it more a slow-progression intent upon an end goal, but focussing a little too much on the inept smaller issues surrounding the major storyline. Director Clint Eastwood does this very well; the realistic thriller paced at the speed a real life event would progress – not the hard and fast action of a more taut thriller. And not to say this isn’t taut; it definitely has its tension stretched throughout – it just does so more subtly than most.

Our story begins with three boys in Boston – Jimmy, Dave and Sean. One day, just hanging out and being boys, they are accosted and Dave is snatched under the premise of being taken to the police station for a misdemeanor. It turns out that he has been abducted by paedophiles and after four days manages to escape, though his mind is forever scarred by what he has endured.

Flash forward to today. Dave is a sullen, broken man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Jimmy is a local thug who runs the neighbourhood while Sean has become a detective on the Boston Police force. When Jimmy’s daughter turns up dead one morning, Sean begins the investigation and starts finding clues that lead him directly to Dave as the major suspect. Due to the abduction in Dave’s youth, the boys grew apart and they come together in an emotional collision as Sean desperately tries to solve the case before Jimmy takes justice into his own hands.

This is a long film at 132 minutes and this is really the only failing of the piece. There’s no trouble with the story, it just gets a little complicated and sluggish at times, needlessly delving into branching story points that aren’t necessary. Shaving 30 minutes off this would have made it a very slick and tense thriller indeed, and while it is still a good solid thriller with a well orchestrated and complicated string of connections, it meanders off track once too often.

Performances, however, are brilliant with the three main protagonists in Jimmy (Sean Penn), Dave (Tim Robbins) and Sean (Kevin Bacon) working well with each other to create a definite authentic air of the fractured friendship and vague mistrust. The supporting cast of Laurence Fishburne (thankfully miles away from Morpheus), Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney all fuel the film with their excellent supporting presence, though Linney’s cracked-mirror thug’s wife is a sorely wasted opportunity as she doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. Marcia Gay Harden is also magnificent as the crumbling wife of Dave, trying desperately to cope with her own sudden fear of her husband as his mental barricades come tumbling down. The entire cast bring the story to life and without excellent performances from all, this film could easily have slipped away into the river itself and become yet another Hollywood casualty.

  Video
Contract

Well, this looks as good as it did in the cinema - actually with the lack of film artefacts it probably looks better. The lines are crisp and clear, while the muted earth palette of colour fills in the depressing atmosphere of the film perfectly. Shadow detail is generally okay, even in the deeper night shots and blacks are graded nicely and not flat or solid. Flesh tones are good and suitably pale where needs be while the whole picture is brought to us in the cinema aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. Ten yellow spots.

  Audio
Contract

A choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 for those folks with regular TVs or a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix for those with satellite speakers. I went with the surrounds and these are nicely effective and filled with subtlety that augments the sometimes creepy atmosphere of the film. Eastwood uses this technique well as he has in other films (see Blood Work). Dialogue is all okay, save for some jumbling of accents and confused running together from both Robbins and Penn, though this doesn’t truly affect the film. Sound effects are married to the vision nicely while Clint Eastwood’s own score for the film is suitably ashen and pensive. He manages to squeeze many important feelings into the score and this includes the dramatic, the mysterious and even the curious. Very impressive stuff from a guy probably best known for his tough guy roles, rather than his directing or his musical scores.

  Extras
Contract

This is a two-disc set and at first it seems there’s no need for such things as the second disc doesn’t hold much. However, to have a two and a quarter hour film of such visual quality with a DD 5.1 mix, there’d be little room on the first disc to hold this collection.

First of all, on Disc One there’s an audio commentary with Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins. This is fairly novel, having two of three major players do the AC, and they both discuss their own experiences on the film and so forth. There’s very little technical data here and there are some very long pauses while the pair enjoy the film, but this sorta suits the film anyway as they slowly progress through like the river itself.

Disc Two firstly has the usual EPK style featurette entitled Mystic River: Beneath the Surface, which holds the usual cast interviews and so forth and runs for 21:56. This is a little grainy in parts and I should stress contains SPOILERS, so proceed with caution. This is presented in 1.78:1 with enhancement, which is a nice touch.

Mystic River: From Page to Screen is the next featurette and this is basically everything leftover from the edit of the previous featurette. This one runs for a shorter 11:32 and is pretty much a poorer cousin to the first.

The Charlie Rose Show Interviews is a big collection in 4:3 featuring one on one interviews with Clint Eastwood (41:51), Tim Robbins (50:26) and Kevin Bacon (19:05). Bacon’s also features some highlights from the previous two which must feel like a rip off to him if he bought the DVD. These interviews are fairly interesting, though Eastwood’s is perhaps the best as he is closer to more aspects of the production than either of the other two (but that kinda comes back to the audio commentary again).

Then there’s but the teaser trailer narrated by Eastwood himself running for 1:12 in 2.35:1 with enhancement, and the regular trailer wending away for 2:26 in 1.85:1 with enhancement. This trailer is also seen in the Clint Eastwood interview with Charlie Rose mentioned above.

So, there’s not a great deal there, but certainly more than would squeeze onto one disc.

  Overall  
Contract

Clint Eastwood is a fine director and his unique usage of slow-progression builds tension most subtly in his work. In Mystic River, he uses this to the extreme to build a mystery surrounding three childhood friends who have grown apart through a childhood atrocity. While the story is a good one and the character development is brilliant, the film does get away on itself a little and stretches just a little too long. However, the dynamic performances of the exceptional cast make the film well worth sitting through.

This is another film in the vein of Eastwood’s previously seen style, and is another great film in his gamut of work. Fans will not be disappointed by this one, though the lack of any real substance in the extras may. Be that as it may, this is Eastwood at his best and the film is well worth the investigation.


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      And I quote...
    "Like a slow-moving river, director Clint Eastwood builds tension gradually as we near the conclusion. However, this River is just a little too long…"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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