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Jack Nicholson, Aaron Eckhart, Robin Wright Penn, Benicio Del Toro.
Directed By Sean Penn.
‘The Pledge’ marks another step
forward in the directorial career of perennial Hollwood bad boy, Sean
Penn. Following on from his previous efforts, ‘The Indian Runner’ and
‘The Crossing Guard’, this movie shares the same slow burning pace as
it works it way to it’s haunting climax.
Jack Nicholson plays Jerry Black, a veteran Nevada detective who, on
the night of his retirement, gets involved in the investigation
following the murder of a small girl. So far, so formulaic: However, in
this case, the suspect is swiftly apprehended, confesses and
subsequently kills himself in police custody - Case closed; a nice neat
end to Jerry’s career. Or at least it would be if he hadn’t made a
promise, the ‘pledge’ of the movie’s title, to the victim’s mother to
find the killer - and Jerry just sees too many questions hanging over
the suspects confession.
Following some private enquiries,
Jerry discovers that this killing is the third in a a string of murders
that have occurred in the same locality over the previous years - all
following a similar pattern. With his pledge heavy on his heart, Jerry
takes up residence in the Nevada mountains, determined to find the real
killer and keep his promise.
This is a story that starts as a standard ‘one last case’ cop story and
slowly develops into a study of one man’s obsession with justice and
his belief that he is right. Right from the start we see the Jerry
Black is very much a man out of time, one of the old school of
policemen who believe in justice and not just the execution of the law.
We see him confused and disorientated at his leaving party, we sense
his colleagues exasperation with him as he refuses to let the case
rest, even after his retirement.
The film is a joy to watch. Nicholson, so often guilty of phoning in
his performances, gives a blistering display of Jerry’s decent into
inevitable madness as he finds himself questioning his judgement and
his sanity as he tries to find the killer.
It’s a testament to Penn’s
direction and Nicholson’s performance that, as the films draws to a
close, the identity of the killer is very much a secondary
Although ably supported by Wright Penn and Eckhart, this is very much
Nicholson’s film. Married with some beautiful shots of the British
Columbian mountains (doubling up for the Nevada setting), the sense of
isolation and (increasing) desperation is remarkable. Don’t come to
this film expecting an all out thriller....leave your expectations at
the door and you will be thrilled in a much more rewarding way.
Cast/Filmaker Career Highlights
Film - 9/10
Disc - 7/10