This remains a powerful story with subtle and effective direction by Clint Eastwood. Watching it again, years later, Kevin Bacon’s performance is the standout for me. It’s not as showy as Penn’s or as twitchy as Robbins’, but is more subtle and nuanced. Quite frankly, everyone is excellent here, and the film is really a showcase for A-class acting.
My issues remain the same in 2020 as they did in 2003: the Savage brother characters are a strange inclusion (full disclosure, I haven’t read the novel upon which this film is based), and appear only to buttress Jimmy Markum’s “legend” tough guy status in their neighbourhood. They also come across as shortcuts to deliver exposition to Jimmy (and by proxy, us the audience) instead of natural connective tissue between scenes. I was thinking of half a dozen different ways Jimmy could have come by certain knowledge in lieu of these guys.
Finally, Laura Linney’s monologue and heel-turn at the end of the film comes off as inauthentic (maybe it’s her attempt at a Boston accent?). I understand its purpose, but there isn’t enough time spent with her throughout the film to really believe she would behave in this way, and as a consequence comes off tonally incongruous with the rest of the film.
However, these are minor gripes in an otherwise strong film, elevated by standout performances, with a heartbreaking and intriguing mystery at its core.