Monday, August 1, 2011

The Pledge (2001)

A Decent Yet Frustrating Thriller

- Sean Penn gives us a decent mystery film with The Pledge (2001); although it is not without flaws.

Jack Nicholson stars as Jerry Black, a retiring cop who makes a promise to a couple to find the man who raped and killed their daughter. After the case is closed, Jerry sees that there is more to the case than what was originally thought, and discovers that the case runs deeper than the single murder in his county - other murders are linked and the murderer strikes in a pattern. Going to the next town in the murderer's pattern, Jerry hopes to put an end to this guy, keeping his promise and protecting a young girl, Chrissy (Pauline Roberts), and her mother, Lori (Robin Wright Penn), who he thinks is next on the killer's list.

There are some glaring problems with the film as I see things:

The film features scenes in which Jerry sees people from his hometown that were connected to the case here and there throughout the new town he moved to - and these "sightings" seem to allude that they are all in Jerry's mind and he is going a little crazy. As the film progresses, the viewer begins to even wonder if Jerry has made all the connections and patterns in the murders up in his head because events seem to point in that direction.

Then we see Chrissy make contact with the murderer and makes plans to meet him - Jerry then uses her as bait to try and catch him (after reading to her every night and screwing her mom). Jerry gets his old cop friends to help him catch the guy - and they wait until about midday until they call Jerry crazy and call it quits altogether (wow, Nevada's finest, eh?). All the while, the audiences see the murderer on his way to meet Chrissy, only to die in a car crash en route. So Jerry did not make the whole case up in his head and he was not crazy - but then he goes crazy because the murderer never showed up and Lori left him after she found out that Jerry used Chrissy as bait! Talk about frustrating.

On top of all the flaws in the story, there are a few scenes in the film that are a tad too melodramatic, I for one could not control my eyes as they rolled in irritation. Also, there are a handful of well shot scenes, but most of the film is shot pretty ordinarily, and by one of my favorite cinematographers too (Chris Menges)!

The Pledge is not a complete waste of film however, while the story lacks and the picture quality is less than brilliant, it is well done in other areas. I thought that Nicholson was real good in his role, he is not as electric here in The Pledge as he usually is - his performance is real low-key and subtle. The rest of the cast does a good job as well; there are a ton of very good actors sprinkled throughout the film that do a good job in many small roles. Sean Penn does a good job directing this film as well; he paces the film very well and unlocks good performances from his actors. The score is well done too by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, with some cool voice numbers and a moving beginning Celtic tune.

Overall, I would say that The Pledge is still worthwhile despite its frustrating points - if not just to see a bunch of great actors sharing the screen together.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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