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.


Three boys, James "Jimmy" Markum, Sean Devine, and Dave Boyle, play hockey in a Boston street in 1975. Spotting wet concrete, they start signing their names into it when a car pulls up with two men. One man pretending to be a police officer, gets out, berates the boys for their actions, and tells Dave to get into the car. The men hold Dave captive and sexually abuse him for four days, until he escapes.

Twenty-eight years later, the boys are grown and, while they still live in Boston, have drifted apart. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con running a neighborhood store, while Dave (Tim Robbins) is a blue-collar worker, still haunted by his abduction. The two are still neighbors and related by marriage. Jimmy's 19 year-old daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) is secretly dating Brendan Harris, a boy Jimmy despises. She and Brendan are planning to run away together to Las Vegas.

Dave sees Katie at a local bar. That night, Katie is murdered, and Dave comes home with an injured hand and blood on his clothes, which his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) helps him clean up. Dave claims he fought off a mugger, "bashed his head into the concrete", and possibly killed him. Sean (Kevin Bacon), now a detective with the Massachusetts State Police, investigates Katie's murder. In a subplot, Sean's pregnant wife Lauren has left him.

Over the course of the film, Sean and his partner, Sergeant Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne), track down leads while Jimmy conducts his own investigation using his neighborhood connections. Sean discovers that the gun used to kill Katie was also used in a liquor store robbery during the 1980s by "Just Ray" Harris, the father of Katie's boyfriend. Harris has been missing since 1989, but Brendan claims he still sends his family $500 every month. Brendan also feigns ignorance about Ray's gun but Sean believes it was still in the house. Sergeant Powers suspects Dave as a possible perpetrator because he was one of the last people to see Katie alive. Dave also has a wounded hand and, although he continues to tell his wife he got it while being mugged, he tells the police a different story – soon Jimmy becomes suspicious of it. Dave continues to behave erratically, which upsets his wife to the point she is afraid he will hurt her. While Jimmy and his associates conduct their investigation, Celeste eventually tells Jimmy about Dave's behavior, the bloody clothing, and her suspicions.

Jimmy and some associates get Dave drunk at a local bar. When Dave leaves the bar, the men follow him out. Jimmy tells Dave that he shot "Just Ray" Harris at that same location for ratting him out and sending him to jail. Jimmy informs Dave that his wife thinks he murdered Katie and tells Dave he will let him live if he confesses. Dave repeatedly tells Jimmy that he did kill someone but it was not Katie: he beat a child molester to death after finding him having sex with a child prostitute in a car. Jimmy does not believe Dave's claim and threatens him with a knife. When Dave finally admits to killing Katie thinking he can escape with his life, Jimmy kills him and disposes of his body in the adjacent Mystic River.

While Dave is being killed, Brendan (having found out about his father's gun during questioning) confronts his younger brother "Silent" Ray Jr. and his brother's friend John about Katie's murder. He beats the two boys and threatens to kill them if they do not admit their guilt, but when John takes the gun and is about to shoot him, Sean and Powers arrive just in time to stop it.

The next morning, Sean tells Jimmy the police have Katie's murderers – who have confessed. She was killed by Brendan's brother Ray and his friend John O'Shea in a violent prank gone wrong: The kids got hold of Just Ray's gun and saw a car coming which happened to be Katie's. John aimed the gun just to scare her but the gun went off by accident. The car veered onto the curb and Katie got out and ran into the park. Silent Ray and John pursued her so she wouldn't tell anyone. The beating Katie received was from Silent Ray, who had a hockey stick. Once she was beaten, John shot her again, killing her. Sean asks Jimmy if he has seen Dave, because he is wanted for questioning in another case, the murder of a known child molester whose body has been recovered, serving to confirm Dave's allegation of having murdered a pedophile and hiding the body thereafter. A distraught Jimmy thanks Sean for finding his daughter's killers, but says, "if only you had been a little faster." Sean asks Jimmy if he's going to "send Celeste Boyle $500 a month too?"

Sean reunites with his wife and his daughter Nora, after apologizing for "driving her away". Jimmy goes to his wife, Annabeth (Laura Linney) and confesses. She comforts him by telling him what she told their little daughters at bedtime: that any decision a father takes to protect the ones he loves will be the right one, even when it's the hardest. At a town parade, Sean sees Jimmy and mimics shooting him, to let Jimmy know he is watching.



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