Review Date: October 09, 2003
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Judie Hoyt, Robert Lorenz
Sean Penn as Jimmy
Kevin Bacon as Sean
Tim Robbins as Dave
Three childhood friends are affected for life when one of them is kidnapped and taken away as an 11-year old and abused by two men for four days before escaping. Thirty years later, all three are still living in the same neighborhood, one as a loving father and husband, the other as a cop and the third as a confused man, also married with a kid. When the daughter of the first man is found murdered, it's up to his cop friend to figure out who was behind the killing. What at first seems like a straightforward case turns out to be a lot more complicated. Kinda like my lame attempt at explaining this story.
This is a leisurely paced, intense, gloomy but ultimately, fulfilling motion picture. It features great acting across the board, especially Sean Penn, who confirms that when it comes to grieving, there aren't many out there who can channel it better than he can, effective directing by a man who's been around these parts once or twice (Clint Eastwood), an enveloping storyline that brings up various connotations about one's past, love, familial responsibilities, friendship, crime/punishment & karma, as well as a handful of solid characterizations of real people just trying to get by as the tragedies of life interfere with their hopes and dreams. One of the things that I liked most about this film was the fact that it didn't concentrate on any one person, but developed all of them enough for the audience to really get a true sense of where they were all coming from. Nobody stands out in the cast of characters, but they're all interrelated in some way or another, much like anyone who lives in such a close-knit community. Which brings me to the film's next great point being the actual small Boston neighborhood in which most of this movie takes place. I heard that they had thought about shooting this film in Canada "on the cheap", but I'm glad that Mr. Eastwood stood his ground, because the neighborhood's aura, in fact...the film's entire atmosphere, look and feel, really gave you a sense of another character in the proceedings. Another fine part of this puzzle was the film's score, which will surely be acknowledged at the end of the year award shows, but for now, brought about the ideal blend of melancholy, hope and power for this movie. It washed over every scene like it was overlooking everyone and really helped solidify me into these people's lives. It's to note that Eastwood himself drew up the music, along with Lennie Niehaus.
I don't remember the last time that I got so involved in a movie and its characters. Great job by everyone involved. Loved the Savage brothers as well...I wouldn't mess with those guys! I didn't think the film was perfect though with its final 5-10 minute "epilogue" feeling a little tacked on and unnecessary, but nonetheless, understandable, considering the film's final revelations. I also would have liked a little more development on Kevin Bacon's character's situation, even though I could see how the "less is more" quotient might apply in his case. If you're looking for a "feel good" happy-go-lucky flick with a mind-bending mystery at its core, you've come to the wrong place because this movie is not light in any way and its murder mystery ultimately isn't as significant as the journey of its characters. The film deals with the brutal killing of a young girl whose father is devastated by the loss and the rippling effect of that event upon everyone who knew her. And yes, in case you're wondering...I cried like a man during a couple of scenes in this film and am not afraid to admit it. If anyone out there doesn't tear up when Penn breaks down like only he can...you must be made of rock. In the end, this film has got almost all of its elements perfectly lined up to create a powerful drama about the undeniable potency of one's experiences as a youth and its continuing effects on each person and the human spirit. The film also features a parallel crime mystery about the murder in question, but ultimately doesn't fulfill that query as satisfactorily as it reveals the innerworkings of the people and the characters who lived through it.
(c) 2013 Berge Garabedian