Mystic River (2003)

Mystic_River_posterWhen you enter into the world of a film you often expect it to be perfect in your own minds-eye, following your own rationale to a logical conclusion. In that sense, Mystic River is invariably imperfect in how it ties up all its loose ends, but then again, what film really can bear that weight — and it’s all subjective anyhow. Instead, Clint Eastwood’s Boston-set drama builds off a story about three young boys and evolves into an engaging police procedural intertwining the lives and events of these three individuals. But it all starts with a game of street hockey.

After losing their ball down a gutter drain, the three lads sign their names in a slab of wet cement, only to be accosted by a formidable man who won’t take their small act of defiance. He yells at the most unnerved of the three to pile into the backstreet of his tinted car. The boy thinks he’s off to the police station, but these men have far more traumatic intentions for him. It’s three days before young David flees into the woods like a spooked animal disappearing into the fog.

It’s a harrowing entry point of reference, that only makes sense after flashing forward to the present. The three boys are grown up. Dave, still hounded by his past, is married and raising his young son. Although work is hard to come by, they’re eking by.After a stint in prison and the death of his first wife, Jimmy is remarried, running a local convenience store. Sean is the straight-arrow of the bunch and became a cop.

As is the case with youth and childhood friendships, the ties that bind us together are often severed with the passing of time as people grow up and drift apart. But those formative years never leave us and when these three men are subsequently thrown back together, their past resurfaces.

One evening when Jimmy is in the backroom of his shop his daughter from his first marriage, the vivacious Katie gives him a goodnight kiss, as she is about to go out with friends. That same night Dave spies her partying at the local watering hole, but before he goes home he gets into an altercation with a mugger — at least that’s what he tells his wife. Except the next morning, Sean is assigned to a local crime scene along with his colleague (Laurence Fishburne), and it looks to be a grisly ordeal.

From thence forward, the seeds of doubt begin to spring up in our minds. What did Dave really do? Who killed this girl full of life and exuberance? Jimmy wants to know those exact same answers, and he’s welling up with bitterness and discontent. Sean walks this fine line of doing his duty and treading lightly on this man he used to know well and now is practically a stranger. Meanwhile, Dave lives his apathetic little life, looking to obfuscate what happened that night with the help of his fearful wife.

But of course, when Jimmy catches wind of what Dave did, he puts two and two together and comes to his own convenient conclusions. He wants justice after all. Even when Sean and Whitey make crucial discoveries of their own, it’s too late to stop the wheels from turning. Jimmy’s mind is already made up.

To his credit, Brian Helgeland’s script adeptly keeps all its arcs afloat, crisscrossing in such a way that leads to more and more questions, because there’s ever a hint of ambiguity. Nothing is quite spelled out and that’s paying respect to the viewer. However, there are moments where Mystic River enters unbelievable or even illogical territory, near its conclusion. Still, that does not take away from its overall strengths as a magnetic character study and gripping procedural. Tim Robbins and Sean Penn especially give stellar turns, the first as a frightened and mentally distressed man, the other as a hardened ex-con with vigilante tendencies. The fact that each character is grounded by their families is a crucial piece of the storyline, tying them all together.

4/5 Stars

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

89761-kellyKelly’s Heroes suffers from the same deliberate pacing problem that The Dirty Dozen has. However, if you accept that and accept that this is not your typical war film, you will learn to enjoy it. With a name that hearkens back to Hogan’s Heroes, Clint Eastwood plays Kelly, a man intent on going behind enemy lines to grab his weight in gold bars during WWII.

The lure of gold proves tempting enough to bring many men on board for this ludicrous mission. Among the gang you have Telly Savalas, the always whining Don Rickles,  Donald Sutherland, Gavin Macleod, and Stuart Margolin. Overall the cast was a fun mix of stars of the big and small screens. Do not assume that this is simply a comedy. It has its fair share of explosions and drama. In other words this film has Don Rickles (comedy) sure, but it has Clint Eastwood (action) to bring it back.

All in all Kelly’s Hereos is a decently fun romp right up there with The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare.

3.5/5 Stars

The Best Films of Clint Eastwood (1930-)

1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
2. Unforgiven
3. Dirty Harry
4. Million Dollar Baby
5. Letters from Iwo Jima
6. Mystic River
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Outlaw Josey Wales
9. For a Few Dollars More
10. High Plains Drifter
11. In the Line of Fire
12. Where Eagles Dare
13. Kelly’s Heroes
14. Escape from Alcatraz
15. Gran Torino
16. Invictus
17. The Bridges of Madison County

*Films as an actor and director

When you’re young, you’re very reckless. Then you get conservative. Then you get reckless again.

Dirty Harry (1971)

2daf4-dirty_harryStarring Clint Eastwood as San Francisco police Inspector Harry Callahan, the film opens with a sniper knocking off a young woman. The self-proclaimed Scorpio says he will keep killing a person everyday until the city pays him off.  They go on high alert and Callahan stakes out with his new rookie partner Chico. However, Scorpio escapes once again and he is just begun. He kidnaps a young girl and threatens to kill her. Callahan runs all across town to deliver the ransom where upon a confrontation occurs. After they recover the girl they track down the killer but he is released because they had no warrant. A furious Callahan finally hunts down the conniving killer one last time after Scorpio kidnaps a bus load of children. In the ensuing chaos Harry finally gets his man. This is one of the great action films and it spawned a memorable character in Dirty Harry.

4.5/5 Stars

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Directed and starring Clint Eastwood, with Hilarly Swank, and Morgan Freeman, the film begins with boxing trainer Frankie (Eastwood) who has a girl come into his gym to train. He gives her no attention but she consistently trains by herself and then gets some help from the former boxer and janitor Scrap (Freeman). Frankie finally gives her some tips but when his best fighter leaves him, he agrees to make this spirited girl into a boxer. Soon Maggie gets her chance and wins fight after fight with knockouts. At the same time, boxer and trainer grow close since they have no strong family connections. However, in the biggest fight of her life Maggie is dealt a cruel break and her life will never be the same. I have to say that I felt Eastwood’s character did the wrong thing in the end but it shows his humanity. The acting was very good, the story was moving, and Freeman’s narration was a nice touch.

4.5/5 Stars

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as the title characters, this is a memorable Spaghetti western. Angel Eyes (Cleef) is on the prowl for a man who stole some gold. Meanwhile Tuco (Wallach) is on the run until three bounty hunters confront him. However, Blondie (Eastwood) is the one who turns him in and then helps Tuco escape after he picks up the reward. Finally, the two accomplices split up on bad terms. The next time Tuco turns the tables capturing Blondie and marching him through the desert. While on their journey they learn where the gold is hidden. First they have run ins with Angel Eyes an the Union army and then they got caught up in a Civil War skirmish. The two of them endure it all and go to the cemetery where the gold is. There they have the final showdown with Angel Eyes in epic fashion. This film is great because it is exciting, it features an iconic Ennio Morricone score, and it has great cinematography which is a trademark of Sergio Leone. An Italian western may seem strange but Leone somehow makes it work.

5/5 Stars

For A Few Dollars More (1965)

7c912-forafewdollarsmoreStarring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef with director Sergio Leone, this Spaghetti western is the second film in the “Dollar Trilogy.” The film opens with two bounty hunters, and in two separate instances we quickly realize their skill in bagging their man. However, when a notorious outlaw, “El Indio,” and his gang begin to cause trouble, both men are intent on getting the reward. Reluctantly they agree to join forces and Manco (Eastwood) joins Indio in his robbing of a bank so the two mercenaries can bring him down. The bandits get away with the money and then later they overhear the intentions of Manco and the Colonel, and so they rough them up. In secret Indio has them released, then sends his gang after them so he can get away with the money.

However, the colonel took the loot and so the next morning he and Manco systematically mow down the bandits. Indo comes for the money and shares a tense moment with the colonel only to have Manco appear too. Using the chime of a pocket watch, they face off. In the end one man leaves, his revenge complete and the other takes the reward. Although this is not the best Eastwood western, it certainly had some action-packed moments that were very entertaining.

4/5 Stars

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

c0810-a_fistful_of_dollars_posterStarring Clint Eastwood with director Sergio Leone, this western adaption of Yojimbo has a poncho-wearing gunslinger (Eastwood) playing two rival gangs off of each other. Upon entering the town, the man with no name is soon disturbed by the Baxters and he makes light work of four men.

Then, he decides to join the rival Rojos gang while spending the rest of his time at the local saloon. After a massacre takes place over some gold, the man uses two of the bodies to lure both sides out to a cemetery  In the ensuing chaos, the Rojos capture one man and then the man with no name sends a hostage over the the Baxters. He was able to get money from both sides before the exchange took place. That night the Rojos celebrate and the gunslinger sneaks off to rescue a woman who is captive. He does a virtuous deed but is found out and the Rojos beat him to a pulp. Using his ingenuity yet again, the man escapes to fight another day. Thinking he received help from the Baxters, the Rojos brutally wipe them out.

With his friend the innkeeper in trouble, the man returns for the final showdown. He outwits his foe and beats the sharpshooter, Ramon, at his own game. As would become the norm  the man would ride off as the victor in one of Leone’s famous panoramic shots.

4.5/5 Stars

Unforgiven (1992)

e1e9a-unforgiven_2Starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman, the film opens with two cowboys who disfigure a prostitute. The sheriff, Little Bill (Hackman) gives them a punishment but the other women pool their funds to pay for bounty hunters. A young gun requests the help of a former outlaw Will Munny (Eastwood) so they can collect the payment. However, because his deceased wife changed his ways, at first Will is reluctant. In need of money, he eventually heads off and brings along his old partner Ned (Freeman). After an initial conflict in the town of Big Whiskey, they kill the first one of their targets. Ned backs out and leaves the other two to get the second victim. After they do it, they find out Ned met trouble from the merciless sheriff. The young gunslinger gets cold feet and so an angry Munny heads into town for the final showdown. Eastwood’s character is interesting because he starts out trying to be good but he finally reverts back to his old ways. In this film it is difficult to tell who is bad or good. Everyone is simply human.

4.5/5 Stars