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The Pledge

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Pledge

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Aaron Eckhart
Director: Sean Penn
Rated: R
RunTime: 124 Minutes
Release Date: January 2001
Genres: Drama, Suspense

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Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

In this dark psychological drama, Jack Nicholson delivers a wrenching performance as a stressed-out Reno police detective facing retirement. On his last day at work, there's a grisly homicide. An eight year-old girl has been found slashed, raped and mutilated in the Nevada snow. Her distraught mother (Patricia Clarkson) forces him to promise to find the killer, intoning:"Do you swear by your soul's salvation on this cross made by our daughter?" Despite the "confession" of a retarded Native American (Benicio Del Toro), coerced by another cop (Aaron Eckhart), Nicholson is convinced that the child molester is not only still free but will strike again. So he ploddingly goes undercover, buying a local gas station and befriending a battered single mom (Robin Wright Penn) with a trusting young daughter (Pauline Roberts) he can use as bait.

Judging by Sean Penn's first two films ("The Indian Runner," "The Crossing Guard") and this, his directing choices are as quirky as his acting choices, beginning with extreme close-ups of Nicholson ice fishing, armed with a bottle of Glenfiddich. The sequence where Nicholson breaks the tragic news to the parents is set in the barn of a turkey farm; it's a long shot with no dialogue. That scene is profoundly moving, graceful and lyrical, as are Nicholson's conversations with the child's grandmother (Vanessa Redgrave) and a psychologist (Helen Mirren). But the story by Frederick Durrenmatt ("The Visit"), adapted by Jerzy and Mary Olson-Kromolowski, is flat and deliberate, almost lethargic, framed by Nicholson's bizarre ramblings and ruminations, resulting in an emotional detachment which is hard to overcome. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Pledge" is a haunting 8, emerging as a subtle study of pathological obsession.

Copyright 2001 Susan Granger

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