The Sorrow and the Pity

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12. Mystic River Dirty Harry Callahan never had much use for those soft-headed San Francisco judges, and Clint Eastwood's squint-eyed Western antiheroes tended to shoot first and ask nothing later. But with this ominous, beautifully acted drama about crime and its traumatic consequences, director Eastwood's worldview seems to have taken a major turn. Sean Penn's seething ex-con, Tim Robbins' handyman and Kevin Bacon's wounded homicide detective have all accepted the rhythms and routines of everyday existence, but when a tragedy suddenly invades their lives, they are forced to confront the emotional pains of the past as well as the dark challenges of the present. Written by Brian Helgeland (from a novel by Dennis Lehane), the film gives Eastwood an opportunity even greater than the one he seized in Unforgiven to examine big issues like crime, guilt and the varieties of justice. Always sensitive to actors, Eastwood evinces splendid performances from his three principals (especially the gifted Penn) and from a supporting cast that includes Laura Linney, Emmy Rossum and Marcia Gay Harden. Of the 24 films Eastwood has directed, this is the darkest, the most intimate and, far and away, the most personal effort of them all. It may even constitute a kind of penance for his own past. -- Bill Gallo

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New Times Film Critics