Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Pledge (2001)

Director: Sean Penn

Writers: Friedrich Durrenmatt, Jerzy Kromolowski, Mary Olson-Kromolowski

Composers: Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright, Aaron Eckhart, Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Clarkson, Helen Mirren, Tom Noonan, Vanessa Redgrave, Mickey Rourke, Sam Shepard, Lois Smith, Harry Dean Stanton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He may have retired, but he's still catching the killer.

Plot: The night he retires as a Nevada sheriff, Jerry Black pledges to the mother of a murdered girl that he will find the killer. Jerry doesn't believe the police arrested the right man; he discovers this is the third incident in the area in the recent past with victims young, blond, pretty, and small for their age. So he buys an old gas station in the mountains near the crimes in order to search for a tall man who drives a black station wagon, gives toy porcupines as gifts, and calls himself the wizard: clues from a drawing by the dead girl. Jerry's solitary life gives way to friendship with a woman and her small, blond daughter. Has Jerry neglected something that may prove fatal?

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.  Twice is fine.


It's probably been since 2002 when I first saw this.  I loved it then but this time I'm a little more critical.  It's a damn fine serial killer movie unlike any you've probably seen.  The actors are all in top form.  There is a lot to like.  The film takes its time.  Over the course of the weeks and months after Jerry's (Nicholson) retirement we see him drift in and out of this case that's been bothering him.  I liked that it wasn't a straight up instance where he's constantly working on solving it.  I also like the relationship he starts to form with Lori (Wright - is she one of the best at playing regular, down to Earth characters or what?) and her daughter.  What feels forced is the moment when Jerry promises the mother of the dead girl that he'll find her killer (although he's a couple of hours left from officially retiring), Benicio Del Toro's over the top performance and the final act where Jerry loses his marbles. That last part would work better for me if there was a transition or a better reason for his sudden slip into madness.  Yeah, he doesn't immediately know that the man he knows is the killer died in a car accident that day but he would have found out very soon anyway and he would have then been able to go to Stan (Eckhart, in a touching performance as a cop who helps his old friend but is hurt by seeing him slip away) and finalize the case.  Then Jerry would feel good going to the mother and completing his mission as it were.  So, ultimately I guess I'm not buying Jerry's fate at the end of the film.  Still, it's a damn fine film.  Unfortunately the Warner Bros. DVD doesn't come with anything but an anamorphic widescreen trailer for an extra.  A commentary by Penn would be fantastic and might explain some of the reservations I have.  This is one of many films based on Durrenmatt's novel, the first of which is, I think, IT HAPPENED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT (1958), which I'm now very interested in seeing.

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