Mystic River (film)

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Mystic River
Mystic River poster.jpg
Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland
Based on Mystic River 
by Dennis Lehane
Music by Clint Eastwood
Cinematography Tom Stern
Edited by Joel Cox
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • October 15, 2003 (2003-10-15)
Running time
137 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2][3]
Box office $156.8 million[4]

Mystic River is a 2003 American mystery drama film directed and scored by Clint Eastwood. It stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. The screenplay by Brian Helgeland was based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. The film was produced by Robert Lorenz, Judie G. Hoyt and Eastwood. It is the first film on which Eastwood was credited as composer of the score.

The film opened to widespread critical acclaim. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor. Sean Penn won Best Actor and Tim Robbins won Best Supporting Actor, making Mystic River the first film to win both awards since Ben-Hur in 1959.


In 1975, three children, Jimmy, Sean, and Dave, are playing on the streets of Boston when a stranger approaches them. Since the stranger has a badge and is wearing a suit, the children assume that he is a police officer. The stranger orders Dave to enter his car, and Dave obeys, but this leads to him being sexually abused and locked inside a basement for four days, after which he manages to escape.

Twenty-eight years later, the boys are grown and still live in Boston, but they are no longer close friends. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is a former convict running a neighborhood store, while Dave (Tim Robbins) is a blue-collar worker. The two are still neighbors and related by marriage. Sean (Kevin Bacon) has become a detective with the Massachusetts State Police, but several months ago his wife ran away from home for another man.

Jimmy's 19 year-old daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) is secretly dating a boy named Brendan and intends to run away with him to Las Vegas. One night Dave notices Katie dancing at a local bar, but later that night Katie is murdered, and for unknown reasons, Dave comes home with an injured hand and blood on his clothes, which his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) helps him clean. Dave claims that he fought against a mugger and killed him.

Sean discovers that the pistol used to kill Katie had been used in a liquor store robbery in the 1980s by "Just Ray" Harris, the father of Katie's boyfriend Brendan. Harris, though missing, supposedly mails his family $500 every month. Meanwhile, Celeste loses her trust for Dave and tells Jimmy about Dave's bloody clothing.

Jimmy and his associates persuade Dave to become drunk at a local bar near Mystic River. As they leave, Jimmy confesses that he had murdered Just Ray and dumped his body at that exact location, and that he will do the same to Dave unless Dave confesses to Katie's murder. Dave repeatedly insists that the person he murdered was a male child molester. When Jimmy doesn't believe him, Dave falsely confesses to Katie's murder, thinking that he can escape with his life. However, Jimmy kills him anyway and dumps his body. Meanwhile, Brendan confronts his younger brother Silent Ray and his brother's friend, John O'Shea, beating them up and threatening to kill them unless they admit their guilt. John O'Shea takes the gun and is about to shoot Brendan, but Sean arrives in time to stop him.

The next morning, Sean tells Jimmy that the murderers are in custody and have confessed. Silent Ray and John O'Shea stole Just Ray's pistol and attempted to threaten a random car, but they accidentally fired the pistol, causing Katie to be wounded. To cover up their crime, they chased her into the park, after which Silent Ray beat her with a hockey stick and John O'Shea shot her a second time. Sean asks Jimmy whether he has seen Dave, since the police discovered the body of a known child molester and view Dave as a suspect. Jimmy realizes that murdering Dave was a mistake, but his wife disagrees with his remorse, saying that Jimmy did it with the right intention. Shortly after, Sean's wife and new-born daughter return to him. A few days later, at a parade, Sean sees Jimmy and mimics shooting him, ending the film.



Principal photography took place on location in Boston.[3] Eastwood claimed that the three lead actors were his first choices for the roles.[3]



Mystic River was well received by critics, with Penn's performance receiving unanimous acclaim. The film has an 87% approval rating based on 195 reviews from critics at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[5] At the website Metacritic, which utilizes a normalized rating system, the film earned a rating of 84/100 ("universal acclaim") based on 42 reviews.[6] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote "Clint Eastwood pours everything he knows about directing into Mystic River. His film sneaks up, messes with your head, and then floors you. You can't shake it. It's that haunting, that hypnotic."[2] The Sun wrote that the film was "a haunting masterpiece and probably [Eastwood's] best film to date".[7]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $156,822,020 worldwide with $90,135,191 in the United States and $66,686,829 in the international box office, which is significantly higher than the film's $30 million budget.[4]



Home media[edit]

The DVD was released on June 8, 2004 and three editions have been released:

The film has also been released on Blu-ray Disc, both sold separately and as a part of the "Clint Eastwood Collection".


  1. ^ "MYSTIC RIVER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 10, 2003. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Eliot (2009), p.307
  3. ^ a b c Hughes, p.153
  4. ^ a b "Mystic River". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Mystic River: Top Critics". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Mystic River (2003): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Hughes, p. 155
  8. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Mystic River". Retrieved 2009-11-07. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Succeeded by
Dallas Buyers Club