The Pledge

Dir: Sean Penn
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright Penn, Pauline Roberts

This is like a two-hour long, shaggy-dog story, which builds your expectations up, only to yank the seat away, just as your about to sit down, leaving you with nothing but numb buttocks to show for the experience. Jach Nicholson's character is certainly fascinating, a detective within hours of retirement who takes on a juvenile homicide case and vows to the mother that he'll find the killer. His approach is somewhat Zen-like; his main method appears to be to open a gas-station and wait for the suspect's vehicle to turn up. He builds a relationship with waitress Penn and her daughter (Roberts), yet there's a nasty undercurrent, hinting that he's merely using them as bait, which subverts his heroic status. There are a lot of celebrity cameos - Helen Mirren, Benicio Del Toro, Harry Dean Stanton, Vanessa Redgrave, none for more than ten minutes - and you find yourself more interested in them than the plot. In the end though, that may be a good thing, because the ending is like something out of a primary school English class, destroying the painstaking and slow build-up of the preceding week (or maybe it just seems that long). It's deeply unsatisfactory, both for Nicholson and the audience, leaving neither with much to take home.


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