Mystic River Blu-ray offers solid video and great audio in this overall recommended Blu-ray release
Three friends who grew up in working-class Boston drift apart after a terrible tragedy. Years later, brutal events reconnect them. Jimmy’s 19-year-old daughter is coldly murdered. Dave is a suspect. And Sean, now a cop, scrambles to solve the crime before volatile Jimmy takes the law into his own hands. Working from Brian Helgeland’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel,
director Clint Eastwood shapes a masterful, brooding thriller built on family, friends and innocence lost.
For more about Mystic River and the Mystic River Blu-ray release, see Mystic River Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
It's rare that a film features a defining performance from one actor, much less three. But Mystic River, director Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed 2003 Academy darling, offers just that; a trio of stunning performances from Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon. (And that's without even dipping into the film's exceptional extended cast.) Based on Dennis Lehane's award-winning novel of the same name, it traces the intersecting lives of three childhood friends separated by a tragic event and reunited two decades later by another. It isn't a comfortable journey, nor is it light entertainment; it's a brutal, brooding, sobering multi-character study that explores the very depths of sorrow, the seeds of rage, the pain of redemption, and the hollow ache of loss. Yet Eastwood and screenwriter Brian Helgeland never resort to sentimentality or heartstrings. Theirs is a tale of unrelenting woe and overwhelming sadness; an unforgiving drama that doesn't tie up every loose end or spoon-feed audiences a tidy denouement. Granted, it's the sort of character-driven film cinephiles will treasure and action junkies will loathe, but it will leave its mark on anyone who gives it a chance.
Parents should brace themselves for Penn's heartbreaking performance...
Twenty-five years ago, two young boys watched helplessly as a man posing as a police officer casually kidnapped their best friend, Dave Boyle. Though he was eventually recovered, the horrors he experienced during his captivity transformed him into a frightened, distrusting shell of a man (played with the utmost sincerity by Tim Robbins). The other boys were changed as well. Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) went on to become a detective, working to bring the sorts of deviants who would commit such unthinkable acts to justice. Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) took another path altogether, that of a roughneck criminal all-too-willing to dispense his own brand of justice. But after drifting apart and losing touch over the years, their worlds collide when Jimmy's daughter (Emmy Rossum) is murdered, Sean is assigned to the case, and Dave turns out to be one of the few people who saw the girl the night she was killed. As Jimmy and his wife Annabeth (Laura Linney) reel from the news of their daughter's death, Sean tries to keep the ex-con from interfering with his investigation and skirting the legal system. Elsewhere, Dave begins to warrant his wife's (Marcia Gay Harden) suspicions and inadvertently attract the attention of Sean's partner (Laurence Fishburne). But could a victim of childhood molestation really turn into a monster capable of killing a teenage girl? Can a temperamental criminal resist the urge to find and punish his daughter's murderer? Can a detective struggling with his own personal issues find a way to rekindle his tattered relationships?
The magnitude of Mystic River's power lies in its performances. Penn practically disembowels himself on camera, peeling back the raw layers of his soul in one of the most vulnerable, uncomfortable, and honest portrayals I've ever seen. As he descends further and further into mourning, he summons the strength to give more and more, oftentimes losing himself in the process. Suffice to say, he makes it increasingly difficult to remember we're watching a masterclass actor work rather than witnessing the emotional upheaval of a distraught father. Robbins is the antithesis of Penn, forcing his gut-wrenching anguish inward as deftly as Penn allows his to seep outward. He leaves the question of his character's innocence or guilt in a constant state of flux -- it's clear something isn't quite right with Dave's stories, but it's entirely unclear as to what, if anything, he had to do with the death of Jimmy's daughter -- and he never allows anything other than remorse or empathy to manifest itself on his face. Make no mistake: without such control, without such command of his every tick and expression, the film's whodunit would be anything but. And while it would be easy to overlook Bacon (the Academy did), his is the most thankless role; one of the few that doesn't come with a juicy buffet to sample. Sean is a more introspective, less convoluted piece of the puzzle; an everyman who sometimes has little more to do than react to the outbursts and confessions of his dramatic brethren. But don't be fooled. Bacon takes what could have been a throwaway role and exudes pathos and gravitas where others would merely raise an eyebrow or shrug a shoulder. He allows his performance to linger just behind his eyes, and even upstages his Oscar-winning castmates on occasion.
Everything else seems to fall in place around them. Eastwood is as commanding a director as ever, finding beauty in the ordinary, nuance in the simplistic, and grace in the unredeemable. Helgeland's script is a simmering, perfectly plotted adaptation that manages to balance the finer points of Lehane's story with the cadence required of a two-hour film. Linney, Fishburne, Harden, and even the younger members of Eastwood's cast (Thomas Guiry and Spencer Treat Clark, among others) rise to each challenge their director presents, leaving little to complain about when Penn, Robbins, and Bacon are nowhere to be found. The score, the cinematography... it all clicks. So why the less-than-perfect score? While far less abrupt and abrasive than Atonement's controversial ending, Mystic River makes an ill-advised detour after Katie's murder is solved. The tone lightens rather suddenly, a bit of contrived dialogue between Jimmy and his wife smacks of amateur Shakespeare theatre, and a bizarre nod between old friends seems to suggest a heinous act is about to go unpunished. I've heard some argue that one character's "gun gesture" is meant to imply justice will indeed be sought, but the expressions that accompany the exchange don't seem to support that interpretation. Although I'm sure some will storm away in frustration, the closing moments have never ruined the film for me, but it does lessen the impact of the story and call the filmmakers' intentions into question.
Be that as it may, Mystic River remains a haunting tragedy; one elevated time and time again by the outstanding efforts of its talented ensemble cast and skilled veteran director. Filmfans would be wise to seek it out.
Mystic River's 1080p/VC-1 transfer is a tricky one to evaluate. Eastwood and cinematographer Tom Stern's muted palette and filmic photography were never intended to appeal to high-def juicers, nor do the filmmakers shy away from soft focus and shallow depth of field. Even so, Warner's Blu-ray presentation represents a notable upgrade from its DVD counterpart. Colors are more stable, skintones are more consistent and lifelike, blacks are deeper and more thoroughly resolved, detail is more revealing, and the image is much cleaner. Artifacting, aliasing, crush, and source noise are all but gone, and edge enhancement, though still apparent throughout, is less intrusive. However, the film's graininess has been left by the wayside; the soupy remnants of a proper grainfield, errant contrast wavering, and lesser textures are now all that reside in its place. While several closeups are quite impressive, too many scenes suffer from mild smearing and a slight reduction in clarity. Evidence of such appears as early as Dave's abduction, as regularly as Sean and his partner question a suspect or witness, and as late as Jimmy's last tragic revelation. DNR has clearly been employed, but it's unclear where Stern's photography ends and Warner's interference begins. All things considered, Mystic River looks pretty good -- enough so that anyone looking to finally toss out their old DVD will be pleased -- but it lacks the integrity and faithfulness of the studio's best catalog transfers.
Mystic River is one of the first catalog titles Warner is releasing with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and I'm happy to report it's an exceedingly subtle, deceptively strong offering. Built on the back of Eastwood's somber score, a haunting collection of quiet piano elegies and heart-wrenching orchestral lamentations, it swoons and relents, permeating the whole of the soundfield to create an unexpectedly immersive experience. Judicious LFE support bolsters every crescendo (not to mention the film's brief bursts of violence) and the rear speakers effectively embrace Lennie Niehaus' swelling strings whenever given the opportunity. Decisive prioritization keeps dialogue nestled just above the music and directional effects cleanly distributed amongst its melodies. Jimmy's desperate wails and hushed admissions dominate the center channel, Dave's quivering cries are clean and intelligible, and Sean's questions come in satisfying stride. Granted, a few lines get buried beneath the surging score, and normalization isn't as polished as I would prefer, but Mystic River has never sounded better. Those who enjoy Eastwood's classy execution will appreciate the track's intricacies.
Mystic River arrives on Blu-ray with the same decent supplemental content that first appeared on Warner Brothers' 3-disc Deluxe Edition DVD (minus the bonus audio CD). The special features are presented in lowly standard definition, but nearly two hours of Charlie Rose interviews more than make up for it.
Audio Commentary: Actors Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins discuss Eastwood's directorial style, the on-set atmosphere of Mystic River, and their respect for the material. They even touch on the intricacies of their craft and the manner in which they developed their characters. Unfortunately, they rarely offer much insight into the nuances of the production. That's not to say it's a bad track -- Bacon and Robbins' banter is fairly engaging -- just that their analysis is a bit shallow (not to mention peppered with silence).
Beneath the Surface (SD, 23 minutes): Eastwood, Lehane, Helgeland, and key members of the cast examine the adaptation of Lehane's novel, the traditional filmmaking and storytelling techniques Eastwood employed, and the nature of the tale, its themes, and its subject matter. All in all, it's an excellent documentary that shouldn't be missed.
From Page to Screen (SD, 12 minutes): Though overtly promotional, this Bravo TV special features some solid interviews, even if it's burdened by lengthy clips from the film.
Charlie Rose Interviews (SD, 111 minutes): The best material on the disc comes in the form of three fascinating "Charlie Rose Show" interviews with Eastwood, Bacon, and Robbins. My time with the segments proved to be two hours well spent.
Mystic River is a devastating tragedy; one that boasts a perfectly cast ensemble and masterful, Oscar-winning performances. While a last-minute tonal shift threatens to undermine Eastwood's dramatic prowess and Helgeland's potent screenplay, the film is nevertheless worthy of the praise and awards that have been showered on it since its release. The Blu-ray edition is a bit hit or miss -- its video transfer and supplemental package aren't as remarkable as its DTS-HD Master Audio track -- but it's a capable, reasonably priced catalog release that should satisfy viewers armed with appropriate expectations.
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the Academy Award-
winning films 'The Music Man' and 'Mystic River' to Blu-ray on February 2nd. Video
for both films will be presented in 2.4:1 1080p VC-1. Audio specs have yet to be
announced for 'The Music ...