Beware of Shiny Lures
The Pledge
Review by Ross Anthony

Detective Black (Nicholson) leaves his own retirement party to investigate a horrific rape/homicide crime scene. The victim is only seven years old. Though there's a flurry of cops on the scene, Nicholson finds himself delivering the news to the trembling parents. Oddly, with no passing of time shown for them to recover from the news, Nicholson starts in with the questions, eventually finding himself in the midst of a "pledge" to capture the perpetrator. Though he "swears on his soul salvation on a cross made by the daughter" this scene plays with little intensity when, in fact, it should have set the theater resonating, sending chills down our spines.

Director Sean Penn, takes his sweet time getting to this starting point. And from here, he relaxes even further. Moving with the speed of a paddle-boat upstream, the bulk of the movie is about as exciting as watching someone fish (in fact, that's the film's allegorical "hook").

In order to rescue this "made for TV" story from the cliche of it's genre, the filmmakers rewrite a predictable ending -- leaving us with a conclusion we would have never guessed; but had we foreseen, we would have chosen some other film to watch.

Acting across the board is expectedly at a high level and the story itself is told respectably via editing. I'm a huge huge fan of Sean Penn the actor, but I just don't like this story. There are times, too, when more artistic sequences are indulged in much too long. Additionally, some earlier unmounted camera work dizzies the viewers unnecessarily. Lastly, the audio occasionally lags, leaving much dialogue swimming in the bass end. Aside from these technical faults, most of the production is of solider quality.

If the talents of Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn draw you to their films (as they do me!), let my viewing of "The Pledge" save you a disappointing evening out. Wait for their next efforts.

  • The Pledge. Copyright © 2001. Rated R.
  • Starring Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright Penn, Sam Shepard, Aaron Eckhart, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael O'Keefe, Mickey Rourke, Harry Dean Stanton, Helen Mirren, Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Clarkson.
  • Directed by Sean Penn.
  • Written by Jerzy Kromolowski, Mary Olson-Kromolowski.
  • Produced by Sean Penn, Elie Samaha, Michael Fitzgerald at Morgan Creek/Franchise/WB.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:00:39 PDT