Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 42 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 42
  2. Negative: 1 out of 42
  1. 100
    Clint Eastwood pours everything he knows about directing into Mystic River. His film sneaks up, messes with your head and then floors you. You can't shake it. It's that haunting, that hypnotic.
  2. 100
    To see strong acting like this is exhilarating. In a time of flashy directors who slice and dice their films in a dizzy editing rhythm, it is important to remember that films can look and listen and attentively sympathize with their characters. Directors grow great by subtracting, not adding, and Eastwood does nothing for show, everything for effect.
  3. Mystic River is classic Eastwood, classic noir. If there is still some doubt about whether this one-time macho star is actually a world-class moviemaker, Mystic River should end the argument for good. One of the best American movies of the year, crisply well-crafted and beautifully acted.
  4. This kind of quiet ambiguity, avoiding easy answers to complex human conflicts, is all too rare in American movies.
  5. Reviewed by: Carla Meyer
    100
    Chilling, superbly acted.
  6. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    100
    Perhaps the greatest, most affecting articulation of the theme Eastwood has been exploring since 1990's "White Hunter Black Heart": how violence--real violence, not movie violence--perpetrated and experienced, can erode and/or obliterate the human soul.
  7. Eastwood directs Mystic River with an invigorated grace and gravitas. This is a true American beauty of a movie, a tale of men and their bonds told by and for adults who value the old-fashioned Hollywood-studio notion of narrative.
  8. 100
    Eastwood has crafted one of the most powerful American dramas in years.
  9. Moves along its course and overflows at its climax with that indefinable but unmistakable assurance of a master filmmaker who knows just what he wants to say, is in total command of his medium and is in no mood to make any compromises.
  10. 100
    The performances are uniformly remarkable.
  11. 100
    A major American motion picture, an overpowering piece of work that involves some of the most basic human emotions: love, hate, fear, revenge, despair. Directed by Clint Eastwood with absolute confidence and remarkable control.
  12. 100
    Mystic River is the rare American movie that aspires to -- and achieves -- the full weight and darkness of tragedy.
  13. 100
    Eastwood's elegantly directed Mystic River, a deeply textured drama in which the sins (or perceived sins) of the past weigh heavily on the present.
  14. 100
    As close as we are likely to come on the screen to the spirit of Greek tragedy (and closer, I think, than Arthur Miller has come on the stage). The crime of child abuse becomes a curse that determines the pattern of events in the next generation. [13 October 2003, p. 112]
  15. 90
    Mystic River is hard-boiled beyond toughness: It's so tender the skin falls away from the bone. It's Eastwood's most soulful, and most organic, movie.
  16. Sean Penn is so frighteningly good in this movie that he outdoes even the best of his earlier work.
  17. 90
    In his best film since "Unforgiven," Eastwood ultimately lets observations on character, community, and the tidal patterns of tragedy shoulder a burden an ordinary murder mystery never could.
  18. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    90
    A haunted thriller of disturbing power.
  19. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    90
    This full-bodied adaptation of Dennis Lehane's involved and involving 2001 bestselling crime novel about old friends in Boston's working-class Irish neighborhood finds Clint Eastwood near the top of his directorial game with a cast of first-rate actors.
  20. 90
    If Mystic River is just a bit overplayed, a tad too highly pitched, it still resonates with grief and fury and feeling.
  21. 89
    Mystic River asks plenty of questions but rarely if ever offers any answers, and certainly no easy ones. If this fine and sorrowful film is what can be expected from our aging cinema icons, here’s to the golden years, dark though they may be.
  22. 88
    Deals with themes Eastwood has often explored before, but never so delicately or with as much sad wisdom: The way in which our past haunts our present, the lasting repercussions of violence and the cruel inexorability of fate.
  23. The white-knuckle center of the movie is Sean Penn, who gives an utterly raw performance as Jimmy, father of the dead girl. It's one of the few times that a parent's grief has felt real on the screen through all its ugly permutations.
  24. So incrementally does Eastwood's film build toward what seems like an inevitable resolution that when it concludes, you're sucker-punched. You haven't been watching a police procedural, but a Greek tragedy. You haven't been watching a drama about the catharsis of vigilantism, but sitting vigil for a community diminished, and permanently damaged, by violence.
  25. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    88
    River ranks with the best movies Eastwood has directed: "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Unforgiven" and "The Bridges of Madison County." But this time, the work is strong without his own on-screen presence -- a significant achievement.
  26. 88
    This is a powerful tale of crime, guilt, and punishment -- a drama that incorporates elements of whodunit mystery/thrillers and police procedurals with a richly textured three-character play.
  27. 80
    Echoes Eastwood’s previous exploration of true-life violence, “Unforgiven,” by tracing how death and depravity stain one’s life for generations, leaving seeds to take root in each branch of a tainted family tree.
  28. Reviewed by: Alan Morrison
    80
    Two things make Eastwood's task easier for him: a superb cast and a cracking source novel. Dennis Lehane's book is one of the very best thrillers of recent years, richer in Boston detail and closer in character study than anything Eastwood manages to bring to the screen.
  29. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    80
    For all its missteps, Mystic River gets the big things right: It turns you inside out with grief, and it builds to an act of vigilante murder that is nearly impossible to endure.
  30. One of those rare recent films whose emotional power resonates long after you've left the theater.
  31. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    This is at bottom a pulp thriller that strains -- sometimes pretentiously, at other times with gutter magnificence -- to reach the level of basic human truths.
  32. The acting throughout is exceptional, rooted in observed realism, but suggestive of more mythical agents at work through the lives of human beings.
  33. The grandest presence here is Eastwood. His directing, like his acting, is minimal: unhurried, spare, unforced, rather somber.
  34. Arguably Eastwood's most ambitious film since his multi-Oscar winner, "Unforgiven." But it lacks the power and depth of that film's dynamic script by David Webb Peoples.
  35. 70
    If he were a more subtle director, it would be a great film; as it is, it's an extremely good one, anchored by the subtly devastating performances of Penn, Robbins and Bacon. The supporting cast is equally good, and blue collar Boston's mean streets take on a beaten-down life of their own.
  36. 70
    Where Lehane's novel seethes with emotionally charged subtext, Eastwood's workmanlike direction feels static -- fatally tasteful, embalmed in gravitas -- while his sporadic efforts at dramatic heightening come off as vulgar cliché.
  37. 70
    An urban crime thriller of considerable gravitas.
  38. Little more than the distended first half of a twisty, dark "Law & Order" script.
  39. 50
    Mystic River wants to be a Bruce Springsteen-like anthem of life and death in blue-collar America. It's no more than a doggerel rendition of poetic injustice.
  40. The performances, especially of Penn and Robbins, are so powerful and detailed (down to the Boston accents) that they often persuade one to overlook the narrative contrivances (particularly the incessant crosscutting), the arty trimmings (including Eastwood's own score), and the dubious social philosophy.
  41. If this death-obsessed drama is a classic, then give me potboiling life.
  42. Reviewed by: Phil Hall
    30
    The new bad movie from Clint Eastwood which takes Dennis Lehane's best-selling thriller and turns it into an inert mess that clocks in at 137 minutes but feels like 137 hours.
User Score
6.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 364 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 96 out of 156
  2. Negative: 35 out of 156
  1. Dec 15, 2011
    10
    People are idiots, SImple as that. Mystic River is a great film - Great acting by the cast, Interesting story, and a very satisfying ending. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins are untouchable in this. Full Review »
  2. AlexR
    Mar 20, 2006
    4
    wow, I can find some seemingly good aspects about this film if I try, but come on!.. a 10? Award nominations? I just can
  3. JeffG.
    Dec 10, 2004
    0
    This was one of the most pretentious pieces of s..t I've ever seen! It seems all we need for a collective, critic circle jerk is to have Sean, Tim, Kevin, and child molestation in the same film. A story can enlighten, inform, unite, mystify, amuse, or frighten. Can anyone explain to me how this film did any of the above? A trailer that seemed to hint that Tim Robbins's character would track down his molesters with the aid of friends he hadn't seen in years, a plot that my wife and I figured out at the halfway point, and enough dead-end/pointless plot devices to fill Boston Harbor. Above all, this film carried with it the most reviling aspect of 'hip,' modern film-making, and that was the moral vacuum that this film resides in. Thank you for the forum. Jeff Graham-Tulsa, OK. Full Review »