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Awesome: 18.52%
Worth A Look25.93%
Just Average25.93%
Pretty Crappy: 16.05%
Sucks: 13.58%

5 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Pledge, The
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by EricDSnider

"Man, we love this cast. Man, we were disappointed in this movie."
3 stars

"The Pledge" is not lemon-fresh, though I suspect Jack Nicholson is being held together by space-age polymers.

Sean Penn directed this atmospheric thriller, and it has the makings of a fine piece of work. Nicholson is as good as ever (it's one of his more sympathetic roles, too), and the supporting cast includes Benicio Del Toro, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Harry Dean Stanton and Mickey Rourke -- each of whom shines despite appearing only briefly onscreen.

The story has potential, too. Appearing at first to be a clichéd cop story about a man on the verge of retirement who is determined to stay on the case until it's finished, it winds up being a rather subtle psychological story with an ending that forces you to consider in a new light some of the things you took for granted to that point.

Nicholson's character, homicide detective Jerry Black, is retiring reluctantly -- so reluctantly he leaves his own farewell party to help cocky youngster Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart) on a murder investigation. A young girl has been found sexually assaulted and slaughtered, her body frozen out in the snowy woods.

None of the local police want to tell the victim's family, so Jerry does it (this sounds suspect already). The mother (Patricia Clarkson), a rabidly religious woman, demands to know how anyone so evil could exist. Jerry assures her grimly that they do. He says he'll find the killer. She makes him promise. He promises.

That would have been enough already. He's sworn to apprehend the villain, and that's why he insists on pursuing the case, even after he's retired. But the film has the woman turning near-crazy on Jerry, making him swear on the salvation of his soul, using a wooden cross knickknack as an idol, that he will find the killer. It's an utterly unbelievable moment.

On that basis, Jerry slowly and quietly becomes obsessed with the case, even though a suspect (Benicio Del Toro) was arrested and later committed suicide. Jerry has a "hunch" that they'd caught the wrong guy. It's an awfully flimsy thing to base so much on (especially an entire movie), especially when a great deal of evidence points to the contrary.

Jerry's hunch pays off, though, as a drawing made by the girl before she died suggests she may have known the killer. From a few circumstantial elements is drawn the conclusion that the man has killed three times already and will kill again within a year. Jerry must stop him, not just to save a life, but to save his own soul.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. Jerry buys a rural gas station (why?) and becomes friends and eventually housemates with a single mom named Lori (Robin Wright Penn) and her daughter Chrissy (Pauline Roberts). He suspects a local man, but never has his cop friends run a background check on him. The last victim was sexually assaulted, but was there no DNA evidence? If there wasn't, fine, but the movie needs to let us know it at least recognized the possibility. The identity and fate of the killer is unsatisfying, too, and for the movie's conclusion to make sense, you have to assume Jerry never heard about a significant highway accident that, had he known of it, would have settled his doubts.

Though Nicholson and company are stellar, the dreary film makes promises it doesn't deliver on, pulling the rug out from under us without really letting us step on it in the first place. A little more deftness in the directing, and it could have been a marvelously unsettling work.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4785&reviewer=247
originally posted: 07/05/03 03:37:20
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User Comments

2/08/20 GLR Insulting, pretentious, heavy-handed,AKA sean penn's 3rd movie 1 stars
12/06/14 Richard Brandt By the end, all the emphasis on Jerry being a fisherman made perfect sense. 3 stars
6/14/12 chris conley Boring yet really acted well, the ending compeletely sinks the movie. 1 stars
4/16/10 tc bronson A deep movie. Didn't like the ending tho 5 stars
1/27/08 Mo I want two hours of my life back--horrible movie 1 stars
5/24/07 fools♫gold A TRUE cult flick, like this year's "Premonition," which FEW people fall in love with. 5 stars
9/14/06 Charles Tatum Effective but depressingly downbeat 4 stars
12/24/04 Landshark filling station for the miserable 4 stars
12/05/04 paul watson Brilliant, 1st Penn I'veseen, I am glad he doesnt pander to the masses. True Storytelling 5 stars
9/03/04 T.B. It very boring... 2 stars
8/21/04 jane dough Really dumb from the git go. After that, mostly predictable. Tediously slow pacing. 1 stars
5/09/04 R.W. Welch Ironic detective story sags some in the middle but has impressive performances. 4 stars
2/02/04 Phil M. Aficionado Contrived with loose ends and plot holes to save fine acting & good commentary on obsession 3 stars
10/10/03 JimmyC Probobly the worst JACK movie ever made. 1 stars
9/22/03 Alice very boring to me, pointless 2 stars
8/23/03 the illuminati You know what? This was a good flick! I liked that it wasn't so tight and restrictive... 4 stars
7/08/03 natasha_theobald not afraid of quiet moments, gentle pacing, or ambiguity 4 stars
6/04/03 JoeSco well done and full marks to Penn for the ending 4 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Very involving and brilliantly atmospheric, but also metaphorically dense. 3 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Excellent - disturbing - thoughtful 5 stars
7/19/02 ! I just didnt get it.. 3 stars
6/29/02 The Bomb69 not a hollywood ending so most won't like it, glad Penn went this route 4 stars
1/31/02 Terrie Smith Intense and moody; Nicholson is good. Ending will please few. 4 stars
1/28/02 Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam & Howe A little more overacting than I can stand, still waiting for Sean's masterpiece 3 stars
1/20/02 Jonas Kyratzes A great movie, but not one everybody is going to understand. 5 stars
11/13/01 Jimbo Good thriller. Worth seeing 4 stars
10/21/01 Alex subtle and powerful 5 stars
8/18/01 stanley beautiful, slower-than-expected "thriller" 4 stars
8/17/01 Marcs Excellent! 5 stars
8/17/01 onesmartcookie This really could have been good...I was anticipating a closure and got the ending credits 4 stars
8/13/01 Lalo Linguini Way slow, with a dissapointing ending. Could have been so much better. 3 stars
8/08/01 Danny & Sharon BIG stars, BIG TALK,drawn out and badly scripted . but same all story . Film Fest Flop 2 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk So intense! Penn proves he can direct, Jack just does what he does best...be a pimp. 4 stars
6/30/01 othree a going nowhere angst movie, still love Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson. 3 stars
6/27/01 Monday Morning Way too slow. At least 30 mins. of filler should have been surgically removed. 1 stars
6/26/01 Madonna Not beaten, bitchslapped by me like the old days you pompous moron... 1 stars
6/26/01 SeanPenn I should be beaten for producing and directing this garbage. Sorry. I am an idiot. 1 stars
6/26/01 JesseL A profound combination of boring tedium and depressing cliche. Cameraman on LSD. 1 stars
6/14/01 J Ignore those pan this film. It was excellent! 5 stars
3/24/01 pat The most irritatingly stupid movie of the year....couldnt sit thru 1 stars
3/21/01 anne corsi terrific movie 5 stars
2/04/01 3 star Mickey Rourke small role ,great acting, Film so so 3 stars
2/03/01 jane fazzari Very weak, too many holes and loose ends. 2 stars
1/24/01 jon j the feel good movie of the year! 2 stars
1/24/01 Jim Shertzer Grim, difficult but persistent involving and compelling film with a fewunrealized ambitions 4 stars
1/22/01 John Park Worst....Movie....Ever! The suckiest suck that ever sucked! DO NOT SEE!!!! 1 stars
1/21/01 28 yowm It started like it was going to be a suspense thriller and then kind of dragged on and on.. 2 stars
1/21/01 Daniel Gonzales Jr suspense, high tension, good example of obsessional behavior 4 stars
1/21/01 Evan Price banal... pretentious... virtual absence of direction 2 stars
1/19/01 Angela M. Murtagh entertaining at first...not a very good ending... 3 stars
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  19-Jan-2001 (R)


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