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"The Pledge"

Directed by Sean Penn.
Written by Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary-Olson Kromolowski.  Based on a book by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. 
Starring Jack Nicholson, Patricia Clarkson, Aaron Eckhart and Benicio Del Toro.
Release Year:  2001
Review Date:  1/31/01 


Another day, another flick!!  As a bit of stress relief, I decided to hit a flick on the way home from work today over at the local multiplex.  Realizing that the weekend ahead is chock full of no new movies that I want to see, I went to the Jack Nicholson thriller "The Pledge" since it had a pretty interesting preview.

In the film, detective Jerry Black (Nicholson) is on the eve of his retirement from the police force in Reno, Nevada.  While celebrating his 30 years on the force, a call comes in concerning a murder in a nearby forest, and even though Jerry is on his way out he wants to help at the crime scene.  It seems that a nine-year-old girl was kidnapped and hacked to bits, and the local police haven't told the parents yet so Jerry volunteers to give the parents of the child the bad news.  When the parents make Jerry promise that he will catch the killer, Jerry feels obligated to carry out the investigation to its conclusion, no matter what the cost.

It is an interesting premise, even more so for me, because I identify so much with Jerry's honor in following through with the murder investigation.  I only use the word "promise" on occasions when I know I can deliver, and I hate it--HATE it--when people say "I promise!" and nonchalantly don't deliver the goods.  Nicholson's performance is vintage, as he deliberately speaks to cops, witnesses, associates and family members in that familiar tone of voice about their knowledge of the victim.  And, naturally, he gets to go off the deep end a couple of times as he gets more and more involved in the case.  And, I don't think Jack has looked the part quite as well as he does in this film; as the almost-retired Black, the age, the extra pounds and his piercing eyes all make for a great performance.  And, director Sean Penn (he does not appear in the film) has rounded up a great set of actors to play bit parts in his film:  Mickey Rourke (acting!), Robin Wright Penn, Aaron Eckhart ("Erin Brockovich"), Vanessa Redgrave and the overworked Benicio del Toro all make appearances in this film and it gives the movie great balance as you wait to see who will show up next.

The story is based on a novel and it features a slow-building development up to its intriguing conclusion...but, it takes a while to get there, and by the time Wright Penn shows up as an abused spouse halfway through the film, things start to take a turn for the molasses.  It picks up again by the end, but I caught myself looking at my watch and that usually tells me that a movie is a bit long in the tooth for its own good!  But, it is tense in many situations and the performances are so good that you might forget about its length.  This, however, is a film that really could have used some has plenty of drama and some beautiful shots of the Nevada outdoors--Jerry is a recreational angler--but nothing very light.

Highly recommended...although, don't expect a pick-me-up.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09