directed by Clint Eastwood

In Eastwood's seminal western ”Unforgiven”, William Munny contemplates about having done his job, “It’s a hell of a thing to kill a man. You take away all his got and all he ever gonna have.” Where many at that time connected “Unforgiven” with “Outlaw Josie Wales” and “Pale Rider” as a trilogy of revenge, a revision is in order after his latest film “Mystic River”, as it has more in common with “Unforgiven” than the two other films.

When the daughter of the local tough guy, Jimmy (Sean Penn), is found murdered, he promises himself, that he will find and kill the person who did it. And while the police are doing their job to almost perfection, Jimmy and his friends are doing theirs.

On the surface “Mystic River” is a crime thriller, but beneath, it is an allegory about how pain from the past plays in on our lives, about how things never spoken about publicly eats us up inside. Each of the three men, once childhood friends, carry an unspoken pain and fear within them: Jimmy, because of the loss of his daughter, Sean, having worked his wife out of his life, and finally Dave, who was abused for four days as a child. Towards the end, Sean contemplates: “In reality, we’re all just 11-year old boys, locked in a cellar, imagining how our lives would have been if we’d escape.”

Where “Unforgiven” answers many of the questions it puts forward, “Mystic River” answers none; if it did, it would betray its theme. We spend the our lives searching for answers, and even though some find a short cut by direct action, the pain from what’s hidden within still is there. To ease this pain, men have wives. The wife supports and makes the man what he is; without her, a man is alone with his demons. Towards the end, where Jimmy stands alone, ready to pay for his sins, Annabeth comes and heals him, by manipulating truth into the words Jimmy needs to hear, into words about love and family. Similar, in the subplot of Sean, who gets his wife back in the end. And while Eastwood offers the illusion of forgiveness, there is none, as there is nothing to forgive: Things are done and cannot be undone, so we accept them, lie to ourselves and move on. As such, “Mystic River” is a much darker film in context than “Unforgiven”.

Another interesting aspect is the representation of the church versus the images of the crucifix. The child molester was a man of God (his ring) and Jimmy is a man of God (the communion, his tattoo), both sinners, both destined for hell. Yet God is never mentioned. These are Irish Catholics, you simply belong to the church, but inherited in the presentation of the crucifix lies, that those wearing the cross are men of evil, similar to “Unforgiven”, where those wearing the ‘law’ are evil. This dichotomy of something that affects us all and those who ‘hide’ behind it seems a common motif in the films of Eastwood. Equally similar to “Unforgiven”, the film expands towards the end and becomes almost Shakespearian: The desperation of Celeste, the insanity of Dave, the ‘lady Macbeth’ allusion of the actions of Annabeth, the portrayal of Jimmy as a king above the law all adds to this. Few films are able to do this, Eastwood has now made two with such a quality.

As a last note, I have to mention the acting, as it is impossible to talk about “Mystic River” and not to talk about the acting, as it has some of the most impressive, if not the best performance of any Eastwood film. Sean Penn, being the best American actor of today and arguable the greatest American actor since Brando, is such a force, that you can feel almost physically can feel his persona. Equally impressive is Tim Robbins, who seems to get more and more lost in his search for answers. Their Oscars are so fully deserved. Equally so are Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden. It is so rare to see a film with such a cast, that acts with such conviction. Spellbinding.

“Mystic River” was the best American film of last year and a masterpiece. Is it better than “Unforgiven”? I’m tempted to say so, but “Unforgiven” has ten years head start, so ask me again in ten years.
out of

Henrik Sylow


Theatrical Release: May 23rd, 2003 - Cannes Film Festival

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DVD Review: Warmer Home Video (single disc) -  Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1- NTSC
Runtime 2:17:40
Video 2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround)  
Subtitles English, French, Spanish None

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• none

DVD Release Date: June 8th, 2004

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Chapters: 36


Great image, great contrast. There may be some very minimal edge enhancement but it is too negligible to be concerned about. Great audio track. Only failing in the Extras department, but there is an SE (3 disc) version which I don't know much about.

After seeing the film I may consider getting it as it is quite an impacting experience (and performances!). I was reminded of the Buena Vista's "25th Hour" DVD image, but with less grain. A commentary would have been great, but I understand the idea of 'up-selling' but still for this bare bones DVD I give out of   

Warning: A Single Disc Fullscreen version exists! 

Gary W. Tooze

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Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1- NTSC