Last night I saw Mystic River, the new film by Clint Eastwood. Loved the movie. This one better get a few Oscor nominations, at least for the acting. The story is good too. It uses one overused plot device that I don't much like normally, though in this case it uses the device to do the opposite of what you would expect. The only description of the movie i can give would repeat what you would find on the official web site, or on IMDB, because to tell anymore would ruin a first time viewing. It's a movie I'll see again though, because the story is compelling. Go read the synopses at those sites. Beyond the story, the acting is wonderful. I also appreciate the movie for not taking a cliché moral stance. It portrays characters as doing bad things, evil things. It allows for their acts to be evil, and in some respects the characters to be evil, but provides the characters with altruism that is not born of duty (i.e., Mafia altruism).
Tim Robbins plays a beaten man. Molested as a child, he's never quite recovered. But he still has a hard edge to him the comes out when he needs it. There's no trace of the smug character that Robbins normally portrays (e.g., Shawshank Redemption). Just an incredible multi-faceted character that Robbins brings to life in every respect. You never get the feeling that Robbins is acting.
Sean Penn also does a good job as well, but here is the feeling that he is acting. He plays a tough former con who has mostly gone straight with his own convenience store. His daughter is murdered near the beginning of the movie. Some of the acting missteps can be laid at the doorstep of Clint Eastwood and the screenwriter, for they call for histrionics and various emotional scenes that we typically see in movies where someone has to show how much they loved the dear departed. Penn does better in his more domestic scenes, such as when he is called on to cover for his missing daughter at the convenience store before she turns up dead.
Kevin Bacon is the detective investigating the murder. All three were former boyhood friends who see each other on occasion around the city. Bacon also performs admirably as a cynical cop, still soft enough to care about the effect of a murder on the victims. His partner, played by Laurence Fishburne, gets the easier role of the business as usual cop.
I looked at Laura Linney's filmography on IMDB. I remember her from The Truman Show but I swear I've seen her elsewhere, though nothing on that list stands out. She plays a character she's really good at. In this case it's the wife/mother who is not troubled by the rough things her husband does, as long as it helps the family. Some day, I'd love to see her portray a real psychopathic character. She'd be good at it.
Marcia Gay Harden also appears as Tim Robbins' character's wife. She's a person who would expect would marry a back on his heels character like Robbins plays. She's constantly buffeted by events around her, and only occasionally can steel herself to a strong will. She does a good job, though I hope she doesn't get any awards for the role. I'd rather see awards go to actresses who do not play weak-willed women.