The Pledge
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

Before The Pledge started, I ducked into the theatre next door to catch the Lord of the Rings trailer which is playing in front of Thirteen Days. It looks great.  The cast, including Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood and Cate Blanchett looks very promising.  The only worrying thing for purists is that the only line spoken in the trailer, by Galadriel to Frodo, isn't from the book.  It'll be hard to wait until December 19!   Now where was I?  Oh ya, The Pledge.  This is the story of a Police detective (Jack Nicholson) who on the day of his retirement goes along to one last murder scene.  The victim is a young girl and while interviewing the girl's mother, Nicholson swears to her that he will find the murderer.  And so in the style of a classic tragedy, Nicholson's  pledge to the mother sets him on a course towards his doom. He cancels his retirement fishing trip to work on the case even though his former colleagues (Aaron Eckhart and Sam Shepard) are dubious.  They become even more negative after a suspect (an unrecognizable Benicio Del Toro) is arrested for the crime and Nicholson claims that they got the wrong guy.  Nicholson has a theory that the  murderer is a serial killer who preys on young blond girls in red dresses.  He has found three such cases in a small geographical area and so he moves there and buys the local gas station.  He soon meets a local bartender (Robin Wright) and when her husband beats her, she and her young daughter move in with Nicholson.  All is well for a while and it is not until they are out shopping one day and Nicholson encourages the girl to get a red dress that you realize that he is using her, perhaps unconsciously, as bait to catch the murderer.  You can see where all this is heading but the end of the movie is a surprise and a very unsatisfying one at that.  It is neither the good or bad ending that you might imagine.  As with many tragedies, the hero is trapped by events and can't get out of the way of them.  So the moral of the story is just ``life sucks," which isn't tremendously illuminating to me.  I found this film to be a big downer.  I could hardly watch towards the end.  It's too bad because this may be one of Jack Nicholson's best performances ever.  He gives a very low-key, un-Jack-like performance.  The Pledge is the latest film to be directed by hollywood bad-boy, Sean Penn. It has some similarities to his last outing, The Crossing Guard which also starred Nicholson and Penn's wife, Robin Wright.  Penn gets good marks of getting the most out of his actors. He seems to be a bit like Woody Allen. Everyone wants to do a bit part in his movie. In The Pledge, actors doing cameos include Sam Shepard, Helen Mirren, Mickey Rourke, Harry Dean Stanton and Vanessa Redgrave.  Unfortunately, they are only on-screen for a collective 10 minutes or so.  So the movie looks more interesting on paper than it is on the screen.  This is Nicholson's movie.  He is in virtually every scene.  And he probably deserves an Oscar nomination but I can't really recommend seeing it.