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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

From Bad to Worse

Mystic River (2003) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Play ballIn the summer of 1975 three 11-year-old boys are playing street-hockey in a Boston suburb when they lose their ball down a sewer drain. They then proceed to get into mischief until a couple supposed policemen spot them and haul one of their number away. He's imprisoned in a secluded basement where the men have their fun with him despite his pleading. He changes tactics pretending to go along with it until they let down their guard and he escapes (“Looks like damaged goods to me”) four days later.

We next see them in twenty-five years as adults. The once abducted Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) did reasonably well in high school athletics, married a girl named Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) from the neighbor­­hood, and is now coaching his son Dave Jr. in stick ball. He's still deeply troubled, which Celeste has a hard time understanding.

The leader of their pack Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) turned to crime, married a hot Latina named Marita, and had a beautiful daughter Katie with her. He did a two year prison stint protecting one Nick Savage (Adam Nelson) who now with his brother Val Savage (Kevin Chapman) seek to repay their markers by doing favors for him. Jimmy has gone straight and owns or manages the Cottage Market mini-mart. After his wife Marita died, he married Celeste's cousin Anna­beth (Laura Linney) and had a couple more daughters with her. His other partner in crime Ray Harris disappeared shortly after Jimmy was released from prison; now Jimmy refuses to let any Harris boy date his daughter. Hmm.

The remaining boy Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) became a statie with the Massachusetts Police where he works homicide. It's a dangerous job, police work is, yet he is both professional and diplomatic in it. His marriage couldn't stand the stress, and his wife Lauren inexplicably left him, but he remains faithful to her and hope­ful she'll return. All three boys have done about as well as one could hope.

loversBeing forbidden to date a Harris boy, nineteen-year-old Kate is seeing Brendan Harris (Thomas Guiry) on the sly. They're in love and plan to elope to Las Vegas in the morning. She has a sendoff party the night before with her two girl friends and is spotted by Davey at McGill's bar. She meets mischief on the way home, and her body is found in Pen Park, which falls into Det. Devine's state jurisdiction. Dave is on a long list of people who last saw her at a bar. His alibi walking home—it's only five minutes—is weaker than flimsy, but Celeste will cover for him. Sean's partner Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) has his suspicions about Dave but no proof that would stand up in court. The cops don't figure Brendan for it, either, but some physical evidence points his way, although it's a reach. Jimmy and the Savage brothers are looking for their own kind of prison-style justice, and eventually they are going to check out Davey. He's likely to revert to his old playing along strategy, which might lead to unwarranted results.


Let's compare the characters of Jimmy and Brendan in terms of likability. Jimmy has been around the block a few times: he's on his second career and his second marriage raising his second family. His oldest daughter is about to leave the nest and his middle daughter about to take her first communion. These sign­posts show him to be no spring chicken. And yet Anna­beth's pep talk was needed because he'd done some­thing stupid in his zeal for his family:

Their daddy's a king. And a king knows what to do and does it. Even when it's hard. And their daddy will do what­ever he has to for those he loves. And that's all that matters.

The staties told him and his cohorts to stay out of matters within police jurisdiction, but he didn't listen.

Brendan seems to have let Kate finance their elopement. She had the regular job, the bank account, the automobile and the phone numbers for their reservations. If Brendan were working per his father's example, he'd be doing odd jobs. His digs were rather shabby. And yet he had a good reputation, “quiet as a mouse, kid's no trouble to any­one.” What we see of him shows wise actions on his part. His mom still hovers over him like he's a child.

There's actually a verse in the Bible, which compares these two: (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” Detective Powers explains how a man who's come out of prison is marked:

“The moment I laid eyes on him, I could tell he'd done time. They never lose it, you know. That tension, it settles up around their shoulders.”

Sean Devine: “He just lost his daughter, maybe that's what's settled in his shoulders.”

Whitey Powers: “No, that's in his stomach. The tension in his shoulders, that's prison.”

His prolific use of profanity also seemed more intense than the cussing of the others. Prison marks one.

One can understand Brendan's poverty. His dad split, or at least he was gone leaving his mom their sole support. True, he or some­one sends them $500/month, year after year, but what­ever obligation it was from didn't take inflation into account. The yuppies moved into the neighbor­hood and the rents went up. The tony Rasbury Coffee Shop located there, and a cup of joe now costs fifteen times what it did at Dunkin' Donuts. But this is all normal business practice of the world. The couple love each other and want to get married. So, what?

Which translation is God's word?

The primary application of the above verse is allegorical with respect to Bible translation. To take one example, the ESV site describes its traditional roots: “The ESV Bible carries forward the trusted legacy of the Bible in English—the legacy established first in the Tyndale New Testament (1526) and the KJV Bible (1611).” Then they get to: "THE ESV AND THE KJV: A COMPARISON:"

The English language has changed over the centuries, and modern readers find the KJV's archaic words and sentence structures difficult to under­stand. Through­­out the course of the twentieth century, it became clear that Bible readers needed a trans­lation they could easily under­stand, resulting in a proliferation of Bible translations.

Here is where the rub comes in. All those archaic words and such. According to a lecture by Prof. George P. Marsh given in 1859 on the English Bible, (448–9)

the English Bible sustains, and always has sustained to the general English tongue, the position of a treatise upon a special know­ledge requiring, like any branch of science, a special nomen­clature and phrase­ology. The language of the law, for example, in both vocabu­lary and structure, differs widely from that of unpro­fes­sional life; the language of medicine, of meta­physics, of astronomy, of chemistry, of mechanical art, all these have their approp­riate idioms, very diverse from the speech which is the common heri­tage of all. Why, then, should theology, the highest of know­ledges, alone be required to file her tongue to the vulgar utterance, when every other human interest has its own approp­riate expression, which no man thinks of conforming to a standard that, because it is too common, can hardly be other than unclean?

The archaic words are ones that have merely become less common in ordinary use, as it were, though when the English language was younger they were a rich part of day to day discourse. They and others now in disuse are still good words. On the other hand, putting sacred discourse into modern vernacular strikes one as a travesty of the tongue, much like hearing an ex-con speak on the street. Just because the young language's words became over time poor in frequency of use is no excuse to replace them in sacred text. It's just a natural course of language, “he that is born in his kingdom becoming poor,” as it were. Scholar Joshua What­mough writes that, “Within the territory of a language, wide deviations of dialect may be found … Such deviations disturb communications, they do not completely disrupt it. And they are, in all known languages, past and present, a constant feature, like archaisms (e.g. in religious or legal terminology) …” (51, 28).

Brendan made the effort to learn sign language to communicate with his mute brother Silent Ray (Spencer Treat Clark.) We might follow his example teaching our­selves with but a good dictionary the archaic meanings of words we encounter in the KJV.

Production Values

” (2003) was directed by Clint Eastwood. Its screen­play was written by Brian Helgeland, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. It stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon. It also features Marcia Gay Harden, Eli Wallach (in a bit part) and Laura Linney. The three leads gave great per­for­mances. The entire cast did an out­standing job, not over­playing their parts.

MPAA rated it R for language and violence. It was heavy on crude language but at least we were spared seeing the talked about violence to the abducted kid. It was filmed in Massa­chu­setts, USA. The New England accents can pass muster, at least for our non-native ears. The editor was very handy in his framing: broad or focused depending. It's a bit long at 138 minutes. The music is a little intense for an emotional back­drop that speaks for itself in spades.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is like a Greek tragedy where one expects bad things to happen. It ends in some kind of yearly parade where one display gets replaced by another in a continuing pro­cession … just like life. Some spectators seemed to be enjoying the parade more than others. It's the kind of movie that makes one want to hug his kid before life throws him or her a curve.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: If you'd rather not read the book. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Marsh, George P. “Formation of our English sacred dialect.”
       Lectures on the English Language. London: John Murray, 1863. Print.
       ——available to read or download at www.bibles.n7nz.org.

Whatmough, Joshua. Language A Modern Synthesis. New York: Mentor Books, 1957. Print.