Mystic River is perhaps one of the most mature and moving examinations on what has always been a divisive subject in Hollywood: the peculiar American old-school backdrop of violence and the flawed system of official justice. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con whose daughter is brutally murdered on a night when his best friend of 30 years, Dave (Tim Robbins), claims to have killed a child molester. The last of the trio of friends, Sean (Kevin Bacon), is the homicide detective assigned to the murder mystery, along with an impartial aid Whitey (Laurence Fishburne).
The film starts off much like any old-time country cinema, complete with the three childhood friends shown dreaming about becoming gangsters and policemen, the ruckus they create in the neighborhood, and the troubles they get into. It also delves into the current social setup where money and power are the two pillars on which a society runs.
But the event that changes the whole color of the movie from an ordinary murder-mystery to that of a dark rendition of social evils is the sequence where Dave, as a young man, is abducted by two men posing as policeman, who hide him away, lock him up and repeatedly abuse him. It is this incident that transforms Dave, a normal introvert, into a traumatic, psychopathic killer.
The film also has a gripping suspense, which unravels during the investigation that takes the viewer through a game of guessing the culprit. The end is played out like a stage saga, complete with triumph, guilt, ecstasy and despair all wound into a bright light that cleanses the lives of the friends at loggerheads.
Mystic River depicts brilliantly how the burden of the past and the maddening quietness of desperation can lead a person to needless violence. As the ingenious plot takes very human-like twists and turns, some situations, like the mounting of parallel investigation by Jimmy in spite of his best friend going through the official motions; the wives of Jimmy and Dave sharing a great rapport because of old friendship; and the emotional abyss that the three friends go into after discovering the truth about the murder, make for unforgettable moments in the movie.
With a tremendous starcast and an intense ending, this Clint Eastwood film may probably be one of his best works after Unforgiven. Well etched-out characters, thoroughly understood Boston neighborhoods and a powerful background score are the strengths of the movie. It will however appeal perhaps only to those Hyderabadis who have an inclination to watch dark and grim emotional parleys that are interrupted by some rather lengthy moments of silence.