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The Pledge (2001)
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Review Date: January 16, 2001
Director: Sean Penn
Writer: Jerzy Kromolowski & Mary Olson-Kromolowski
Producers: Sean Penn, Elie Samaha & Michael Fitzgerald
Actors:
Jack Nicholson as Jerry Black
Robin Wright as Lori
Aaron Eckhart as Stan Krolak
Plot:
A life-long cop retires but not before a case about a murdered little girl falls into his lap. After promising the little girl's mom that he will find the killer, the man sets out to solve the mystery just as his retirement comes to fruition.
Critique:
Other than re-iterating the well-known fact that "life sucks", I didn't really get much out of this movie. Was it a mystery, was it an existential drama about what life is like after an all-consuming career or was it simply about giving Mickey Rourke a job? Who knows. One thing that I do know is that it was definitely NOT an action movie, or your typical police thriller. In fact, there was no action or thrills in this entire movie (don't let the trailer fool ya!). This movie is more in the realm of "cinema" and the art-house crowd. Not for your "everyman", that's fer sure. It's another depressing, slow-paced cinematic effort with death as its major underlying theme, by director Sean Penn, who seems to get off on films featuring a protagonist who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and looks real cool in slo-mo shots. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. The movie actually started off on a pretty nice footing. The whole "cop-retiring-but-not-until-he-solves-that-one-last-case" thing was cool, but unfortunately, the film takes a huge turn at about the one-third mark. It almost seems to change into another movie altogether. It's too bad because either one of the stories in this film might've been interesting on their own, given their own scripts and direction, but the mix of the two just doesn't click here.

The first story is a pretty standard murder mystery, while the other delves deep inside the psyche of a man faced with his own futility at the dawn of his retirement. Interesting enough on paper, but despite the film's engaging set-up, the whole midsection of the movie is simply overloaded with redundant scenes featuring bit parts by various actors, birds flying and a whole lot of scenery, which ultimately all add up to very little in the end. In fact, I remember turning to my friend at one point and remarking how "nothing" had basically happened in the past 45 minutes. And when I say "nothing", yeah sure, there was definitely stuff happening on the screen, but the film simply wasn't progressing. At that point, I was hoping that the film's conclusion would salvage some of its own misdirection, and add to the solid outing by Jack Nicholson, perfectly underplaying his role, the picturesque scenery and Penn's able, if not somewhat over-directed style, but alas, t'was not to be. The ending did nothing to help me complete the circle that was prepared by its lead character, and frankly left me quite frustrated and unsatisfied. I think I understand what Penn and the writers were trying to say with this ending, but God knows the film and its anti-climactic conclusion, did very little to either entertain or enlighten me either way. Montage after montage after montage after montage, all laced in a pile of sad songs, a very thin mystery and plenty of useless one scene cameos by "name" actors, mark this film as my first real disappointment of the new year. Note my previous scores to related films below and see if you and I are close in movie mindset.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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