[warning: contains spoiler-like substance. do not continue reading if you have not yet seen Mystic River and want to remain innocent of information that will spoil all suspense for you if you do. you have been warned. JFW will use this warning to aggressively defend its interest in any spoiler-based lawsuits. trying to sue JFW for spoiling Mystic River will almost certainly result in your being bankrupted both financially and karmically by our specially-genetically-engineered high-priest-sherpa litigators.]
I saw Mystic River yesterday. It was fine, although the reviews had led me to expect better. For stories where the villains are supposed to be Real Human characters as opposed to cartoonish ones, filmmakers often resort to two tried-and-true back-story tactics in explaining how someone can become a villain: (1) something really bad happened to them as a child; (2) they have some kind of desperation- and resentment-generating physical disability (think: Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life). About 3/5ths of the way through Mystic River, immediately once the provenance of the gun used in the murder was discovered, I thought to myself, wow, they are setting up a whodunit puzzle between the adult-who-had-been-kidnapped-and-sexually-abused-as-a-child [Type (1) villain] and the mute kid [Type (2) villain]. And, lo, it turns out that there has been enough homicide to go around for both!
Okay, so I will use this paragraph so that someone who doesn't want to read this post because they know it contains a spoiler, but then has their eyes wander to the end of the page, doesn't actually get any true spoiler information. So, fake spoilers will follow. I was surprised when Laurence Fishburne killed Sean Penn at the end. I was also surprised when Sean Penn and Susan Saradon secretly switched places, so that the Susan Saradon character ended up getting executed, while Sean Penn ended up becoming a nun who was secretly married to the Tim Robbins character. Likewise, I was surprised when the Kevin Bacon character was able to pull off the high school dance after all, and that Tom Hanks was able to get him and Gary Sinise back to Earth safely, even if Gary Sinise did lose his legs and become a shrimp magnate in the process. Who would ever have guessed?