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Dirty Harry cruises down the Mystic River

New York, Oct. 3 (Reuters): Clint Eastwood offers a different twist on violence — and no apologies — in Mystic River, the gripping, psychological crime thriller that opens the New York Film Festival today.

Two brutal murders punctuate the Boston-based tale of three childhood friends tied by tragedy, but this is not about the violent justice so long associated with the eerily cool, calm Eastwood from his spaghetti western and Dirty Harry days.

This story, produced and directed by a mellowed, reflective Eastwood, is about stolen innocence and child abuse and violence gone wrong.

The 73-year-old Eastwood, still leading-man handsome with his bright blue eyes piercingly sharp under a shock of white hair, cuts off talk about his old persona.

“Then was then and now is now,” he told a news conference after a press screening. “I’m not apologising for any movie. Times change, people change. That’s life.”

Mystic River, which stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Hardin, kicks off a 17-day festival that features 24 films and three special events.

The movie opens across the US next week.

The 41st New York Film Festival concludes on October 19 with 21 Grams, an English-language film directed by Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that also stars Penn along with Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro.

The “centrepiece” showing of the festival is The Fog of War, a cinematic dialogue between filmmaker Errol Morris and Robert McNamara, secretary of defence during the escalation of the Vietnam War and World War II military strategist.

Other high-profile films in the program include Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, a Columbine-inspired film about high school gun violence, and Dogville, which stars Nicole Kidman and rips the myth of American small town innocence.

Eastwood, who gained fame in roles ranging from vengefully violent cops to silent, but lethal, cowboys, said he was moved to take on this project, adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, because of his revulsion for child molestation and its ripple effects.

“I was fascinated by the stealing of innocence,” said Eastwood. “The moment I read it, I felt, ‘I’ve got to do it’.”

“It’s like stealing someone’s life,” Eastwood added.

“Child molestation is the worst of all crimes.”

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