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Movie Reviews

The Pledge  

Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson)
Lori (Robin Wright Penn)
Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart)
Eric Pollack (Sam Shepard)
Toby Wadenah (Benicio Del Toro)
Jim Olstand (Mickey Rourke)
Directed by Sean Penn Written by Jeezy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski, based on the novel by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Rated R for violence and language
Running Time: 124 minutes Distributed by Warner Bros.

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The Pledge is a strong character driven film that ends very mildly. The film opens with the retirement party for homicide detective Jerry Black (Nicholson). While being honored at his party, a horrific murder of an eight-year-old girl is reported. Even though he won’t be a cop in a few hours, Jerry arrives at the crime scene to investigate. Jerry next finds himself telling the terrible news to the parents of the murdered young child. The mother of the child then traumatically makes Jerry swear on his soul to find the killer. The case is closed when a mentally challenged Indian (Del Toro) confesses to the murder. Jerry doesn’t buy the confession and begins searching for clues, patterns and anything to help him find the murderer. Jerry’s friends with the police force try to tell him that he isn’t a cop anymore and that the case is over and closed. However, Jerry ignores them and proceeds into an obsessive journey of locating the murderer and living up to his pledge, no matter what the consequences are.

The Pledge is a drawn out and different type of detective film. Though the film is something that I have never seen before, it closes leaving the film in a sense of fragility.

Jerry Kromolowski and Mary Olson Kromolowski wrote the script for the film based off the novel by Friedrich Durrenmatt. The script is a character centerpiece upon the retired detective Jerry Black. Jerry is in all but a few of the scenes in the film and moves or drives the film from nearly beginning to end. I found the film’s theme to be about the obsession and limits that are surpassed when trying to keep a promise, especially a deep promise like Jerry’s. The film’s end left me perturbed, even though I understood the impact of the unique ending. In which, the writers keep you at the edge of your seat through the last twenty minutes of the film, but I found the ending to be sort of a letdown, even though I admired it. I can’t say too much else about the end without ruining it, so I will just let it reside. I did learn that either the writers of the director changed the time setting from Durrenmatt’s original time setting. The story takes place in the 1950’s in Durrenmatt’s novel, and the film is set in present day. I believe the story works better with some of the police tactics in present-day time. The script adaptation is strongly focused and mostly balanced.

Sean Penn shows some very respectable signs of becoming a great filmmaker. A lot of the scenes in this film that I want to talk about would give away too much, but I will give one example. Probably the best scene in the film contains Nicholson and turkey farm. Penn powerfully directs the scene with patience and charisma, the camerawork and selection is brilliant. Penn sometimes drags a little with his sequencing and transitions, but his direction is bold and most of all natural. He previous directorial debut was another drama with Jack Nicholson called The Crossing Guard. Though I liked The Crossing Guard more than The Pledge, the two films are both character driven, but different. With his direction in The Crossing Guard and The Pledge, I believe Sean Penn will be able to choose any story he wants to tell, and he will tell it well.

With his first performance since winning an Oscar for As Good as it Gets, Jack Nicholson returns with an outstanding performance as Jerry Black in The Pledge. Nicholson flawlessly masters all the ticks, tangents and feelings of the obsessed ex-cop. He continues to show that is one the greatest actors around and that he will still rock every acting performance that he does. Penn’s wife, Robin Wright Penn, turns in an emotionally admirable performance as the single mother named Lori. Aaron Eckhart serves up a contributable performance in a small role as Jerry’s old cop buddy. Also, red hot off of Traffic, Benicio Del Toro delivers a disturbing portrayal of the mentally challenged accused Indian murderer.

The Pledge has very good acting by Jack Nicholson and sharp direction by Sean Penn. I found the content of the film to be very disturbing, but also powerful. I honestly didn’t like the climatic ending of the film, even though I understood its purpose. Though I said that The Pledge was a different detective story, I found it to be very similar to another dark drama with Nick Nolte called Affliction. Older audiences might enjoy this film, because of the perplexity and the performance by Nicholson. However, I don’t believe younger audiences will like this movie and no one under seventeen should see this film.

Report Card Grade: B-

Beastman’s Movie Reviews
Copyright, 2001 Joseph C. Tucker

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