by Marty Demarest

Most movie studios reserve the multi-disc, collector's edition, hand-signed-in-a-special-carrying-case DVD treatment for science-fiction/fantasy extravaganzas and cult favorites. The extra time and room available on the DVD format make a perfect place for deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes documentaries and long-winded, self-congratulatory commentaries. In other words, movie studios usually put enough stuff on a DVD to make paying the inflated prices worthwhile.

But Warner Brothers has gone overboard with the three-disc set for Clint Eastwood's Mystic River. I understand that as an Oscar-nominated film directed by Clint Eastwood, it's something of a prestige project. All of the actors, from Tim Robbins to Sean Penn, are heavy hitters who were clearly devoted to the project. The screenplay by Brian Helgeland is a perfect example of how to turn a good book into a successful movie. But three discs?

Based on Dennis Lehane's novel, Mystic River tells the story of three Southies -- boys from Boston's working-class South Side -- named Jimmy, Sean and Dave. Though close to each other as children, the abduction and sexual abuse of Dave leads to the end of their friendship -- and to the beginnings of difficult adulthoods. Much of the movie catches up with the boys later in life, when the paths of all three cross again. This time, it's Jimmy (Penn) who suffers a personal trauma. Sean (Kevin Bacon), who has grown up to be a homicide detective, comes back into his life as a result. Dave, who has grown up haunted and unsettled, creeps back into the picture as his wife (Marcia Gay Harden) becomes suspicious of his recent behavior.

In an ensemble-cast, intricate drama such as Mystic River, more complications are bound to emerge. Story threads appear from the details that Eastwood includes in each scene, and all of the actors inhabit their characters with serious, heady understanding. (Penn's family-man/reformed gangster is particularly well-done.) But even as the plot and emotional core of Mystic River grows, there's not much to it outside of the movie.

Nevertheless, Warner Brothers has filled the other two DVDs with unnecessary extras. One of the discs -- an entire one -- is the movie's soundtrack. The other contains increasingly fatuous interviews with the director and cast from the Charlie Rose Show. Mystic River is a brilliant movie, but at $40 for three discs, you might want to consider the standard version instead for your home DVD library.

Publication date: 06/10/04

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