(In theaters, January 2004) This is a film that, yes, revolves around a murder investigation. Cops discover the body, accumulate clues, interrogate suspects and eventually catch the killer. But where Mystic River leaves more conventional crime thrillers behind is in how it doesn’t limit itself to just a genre story: By focusing on the victim and the impact of her death on friends and family, writer Brian Helgeland gives all the necessary material to director Clint Eastwood to craft a film with more ambitious goals. The result may not be perfect (the pacing is a bit too slow, and the ending is intentionally frustrating) but it’s still a good film. The cast is impressive (it’s hard to pick a favourite performance when you’ve got Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins and Lawrence Fishburne to choose from) and the investigation moves at a delicious pace. What’s not so compelling is the drama side of the equation, which beats up viewers over the head over and over again with the same points, symbolism and torpid pacing. Ironically enough, much of the same story could have been told without the childhood abuse tale that frames the film. The ending takes a quick turn toward tragedy as not all the guilty are punished and not all the innocents are given justice. But it’s a film with a lot of content, and some of it is bound to hit even as some manages to miss the target. Not bad.