Volume 94, Issue 67

Tuesday, January 23, 2001


This is a Gift worth unwrapping

Penn's The Pledge breaks its promise

Disc of the Week

Gondoliers a whole lotta singing

Soundtrack a solid sampler - Six Feet Under sure does suck

Penn's The Pledge breaks its promise

Photo by Douglas Curran
HERE'S JOHHNY! Jack Nicholson starred in The Shining, which is a much better film than The Pledge.

The Pledge
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright Penn
Directed By: Sean Penn

By Chad Finkelstein
Gazette Staff

Maybe a second chance isn't always deserved.

Following a notoriously weak year at the box office, one would hope that a new year would bring films with new concepts and innovations. Unfortunately, Hollywood can add that to a list of unfulfilled resolutions.

The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson, is a boring, repetitive and irritating movie that we can only pray will not be an indicator for the slew of silver screen spectacles to follow for the rest of the year. Directed by Sean Penn, it tells (or rather, tries to tell) the story of retired Nevada cop, Jerry Black, who on the eve of his retirement, squeezes himself into one last homicide case before he slinks into a lonely and miserable old age.

His investigation of a murdered seven-year-old girl drives him dangerously close to madness, to the point where he is ordered to leave the police station, abandon his work, and start his new life. Of course, Jerry isn't eager to obey and, after relocating to an obscure fishing town, tries again to secure some closure on the tragedy.

The murder becomes less of a professional obligation than a personal one for Jerry, as he swears on the salvation of his soul that he will avenge the child's death to her bereaved parents – hence, the quest to fulfill The Pledge.

The positive aspects of this film are limited. In fact, Jack Nicholson's performance is perhaps the only big draw to this movie. Having relied too heavily in his last few movies on his famous "Jack" persona, The Pledge offers the veteran actor a chance to finally act again. He pulls off his character effectively in a very understated and subtle performance that commands the audience's attention.

The Pledge might have been better if it was half an hour instead of two hours. The introduction of the murder story is promising despite the hokey "pledge" premise, but it quickly dissipates; leaving an entire hour of Jerry readjusting to his retired life. This involves fishing, walking, staring, driving, meeting a woman half his age, and sporadic returns to the actual plot of the moviey.

The love interest in question is played by Robin Wright Penn, a close competitor with Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich for most grotesque makeover of an attractive woman. Her character is bland and uninteresting, and completely baffling in her affection for the elder detective.

The most frustrating thing about The Pledge is that it's just too slow, too uneventful and too meaningless to provoke any additional interpretation. Beyond that, The Pledge gets bogged down by a flaccid script that actually includes laughable lines like, "I made a promise...you're old enough to remember when that meant something," as well as an incomprehensible chronology that inconsistently jumps between too many seasons. For the last 20 minutes, the movie finally returns to the plot that made it remotely interesting in the beginning.

It is an interesting ending, but not one strong enough to salvage this forgettable garbage. In the future, maybe we can hope for a pledge from marquee actors to use better discretion when investigating scripts.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000