The film opens in a working-class Boston neighborhood where the lives of three boys – Jimmy, Sean, and Dave – are destroyed as Jimmy and Sean watch in frozen confusion as their friend Dave is driven off by wolves in cop clothing. After four days of sexual abuse, Dave escapes and returns home.
Twenty-five years later, the three are no longer friends, and they each seem to be plagued forever by the event that tore them apart. Jimmy (Sean Penn), a dark and emotional ex-con, changes his ways to put all of his energy into his family and the mom-and-pop convenience store that he runs. Sean (Kevin Bacon), a homicidal detective, relates better to his partner than to his estranged wife. And Dave (Tim Robbins), still dealing with his inner demons, can’t hold down a job and spends much of his time drinking and walking his young son to school.
The three old friends are brought together again when Jimmy’s 19-year-old daughter Katie is found brutally murdered. Sean is called in to investigate, and what follows is a classic Hollywood whodunit, or so we think. Dave comes home on the night of Katie’s murder with someone else’s blood on him. He tells his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) that he was mugged and in self-defense, may have killed the man. When nothing shows up in the paper about a mugger, Celeste worries that Dave may have been Katie’s killer. All evidence points straight to Dave. But we are more interested in the relationships of the characters and their strained histories than the actual murder mystery and police investigation.
The beauty of this film is not the solid storyline, but the strong performances by each member of the star-studded cast. Sean Penn is dark and intense, but underneath you can see the humanity and love in his portrayal of the grieving father, Jimmy. Kevin Bacon is compelling as the determined cop with relationship issues. He and his partner Whitey, played by Laurence Fishbourne, have great on-screen chemistry. And Tim Robbins is at his finest, delivering a believable and somewhat creepy performance as the hollow, psychologically crippled Dave.
I loved this movie. I went in expecting an intense thriller, but what i discovered was a real human drama that hit me deep in my core.