The night he retires as a Nevada sheriff, Jerry Black pledges to the mother of a murdered girl that he will find the killer. Jerry doesn't believe the police arrested the right man; he discovers this is the third incident in the area in the recent past with victims young, blond, pretty, and small for their age. So he buys an old gas station in the mountains near the crimes in order to search for a tall man who drives a black station wagon, gives toy porcupines as gifts, and calls himself the wizard: clues from a drawing by the dead girl. Jerry's solitary life gives way to friendship with a woman and her small, blond daughter. Has Jerry neglected something that may prove fatal? Written by
Superb drama. Top 5 of the decade so far without a doubt!
I have been an admirer of Sean Penn's previous directorial efforts ('The Indian Runner' and 'The Crossing Guard'), but he has really surpassed himself with this one. Re-teamed with Jack Nicholson he has helped that legendary actor create his best on screen performance since his 1970s peak ('Five Easy Pieces', 'Last Detail', 'Cuckoo's Nest', 'Marvin Gardens' et al). Nicholson has always been sensational but over the last ten years or so has sleepwalked his way through way too many movies, culminating in his irritating and mannered performance in the cliched and sentimental claptrap 'As Good As It Gets'. 'The Pledge' has obviously recharged his creative batteries. He is simply stunning in this film.
Nicholson is supported by a superlative array of actors, ranging from Aaron Eckhart ('The Company Of Men') and Sam Shepard ('The Right Stuff') to British vets Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave, to Nicholson's old cronies Lois Smith ('Five Easy Pieces') and Harry Dean Stanton ('The Rebel Rousers'). While the cast is packed with familiar faces, none are gratuitous, all are first rate, and contribute to the overall excellence of the movie. Special mention must be made to the memorable cameos of Benicio Del Toro, and an as especially compelling performance by Mickey Rourke. Long underrated and often ridiculed, Rourke once again shows just how compelling he is as an actor.
'The Pledge' sticks out like a sore thumb in today's climate of wall to wall action movies, dumb comedies, and contrived "blockbusters". This is a real movie, with outstanding acting and a haunting story. Sadly fewer and fewer movies of this calibre are hitting the big screen, so treasure it!
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