Ali Khamseh’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Mystic River" is one of the best examples of how a good script can save a somewhat lackluster direction. I don't think Clint Eastwood is a good director. He's not the worst, but he does nothing more than pointing the camera at the scene, and direction is something more than that. "Mystic River" is a movie that I think deserves a viewing, but I doubt it has the staying power that it wants to have. There are moments that will stand out, but overall this movie is just good enough.
The story is good, it's compelling and it has a lot of moving parts to make it engaging and keep the audience guessing. The characters are not the deepest for the most part, but they do have their quirks and their twists that makes them interesting enough to discuss. There's a lot of different emotions rising up through the story, and the dialogues (even though they are very apparent in their meaning) are well worded enough to be memorable and feel real. Also I think I need to mention the star-studded cast. Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishbourne, Sean Penn and Marcia Gay Harden are doing amazing jobs at making this story feel more realistic and more engaging, and I have to just mention Eli Wallach in his small role. It was just a joy to see him even for such a short time. But towering over everyone is Tim Robbins. He managed to turn in one of his best performances, and create such a well-defined character that just by looking at him you can almost feel the pain he's going through without the aid of any dialogues. He is very subtle, but very effective. Even in his most delirious and when making speeches that doesn't sound very profound when you actually think of them, his performance is great enough to keep the eye on him.
But the main problem of the movie is the fact that aside from the script and the acting, the movie is extremely bland; and I blame Clint Eastwood. This script needed something on the par with "L.A. Confidential" or "Shutter Island", but at the end of the day it just is nothing more than a story brought to screen by the minimum effort. There's no style, no theme, nothing. Just a camera pointing at stuff. Which might not sound like such a big deal, but it's the difference between a good movie and a great movie. "Mystic River" is a good but bland movie. I will probably remember Tim Robbins' performance, but I will not remember the movie very well. And I've seen it more than a couple times.
In the end, "Mystic River" is a movie that I believe can be very much worth the viewing. It has a good story, and a couple of very good performances. But that's it, it doesn't have a lot more going on for it. It feels like a wasted opportunity to give this story and this script to a director like Eastwood. I just can think of what someone with style or someone who was a better director could do with this material, but the end result won't be changed.