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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicholson's a triumph!
When I first heard about this film I was very intrigued; for one thing I think Jack Nicholson is great- he has this ability to completely draw you in when on screen, and he seems to do it so effortlessly. It's true that this story is slow, but this is necessary.
The story begins, focusing on Nicholson's character, a detective working his last day before retirement...
Published on 2 Dec 2001 by headinbucket

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Faded at the wire
Always a pleasure to see Jack strutting his stuff but the end was totally unsatifactory;Jack, with your obvious power and influence,you should have intervened
Published 10 months ago by Bombalone


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicholson's a triumph!, 2 Dec 2001
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
When I first heard about this film I was very intrigued; for one thing I think Jack Nicholson is great- he has this ability to completely draw you in when on screen, and he seems to do it so effortlessly. It's true that this story is slow, but this is necessary.
The story begins, focusing on Nicholson's character, a detective working his last day before retirement. On that same day the body of a brutally murdered young girl is discovered,and in a nutshell Nicholson ends up making a 'pledge' to the victim's mother; he will find the killer.
What makes this film so interesting, and different, is the way one closely follows Nicholson's endless pursuit of this killer. By making this film so detailed it enables you to fully empathise with his character, as in the end the viewer sort of adopts an 'obsession' of their own to find the murderer. By the end of the film i was almost as desperate as Nicholson to find out.
The supporting cast are all excellent, including Vanessa Redgrave and the ever-screen-stealing Benicio Del Toro, who all make this film all the more watchable.
It's a murder mystery, but with a twist. There's nothing 'fancy' about it, which is propbably what makes it all the more 'real' and strangely disturbing when watching it.
If you don't have much patience when it comes to films, I would probably give this a miss as you really do need to concentrate. But if you like something a bit different, a detective/drama with a twist you should give this a try. Alternatively, if like me, you think Nicholson is so watchable anyway, then go see it now!! His performance is mesmerising, but in such a clever and subtle way. I would definitely see it again, just to try and get my head around the ending.
A very cleverly crafted film. The only negative for me was that Del Toro wasn't in it longer. Go on, give it a try.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic if disturbing flick from Sean Penn, 10 Jan 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
By no means a hit (costing around $45m and recouping only $20m in the USA), The Pledge shows how accomplished Penn is becoming as a director and the fantastic range Jack Nicholson still offers. After the almost unrelentlessly bleak Indian Runner, Penn continued in similar vein with the Crossing Guard, and The Pledge is certainly an apt companion piece for these two films.
The only problem I had with the film was the slightly abrupt ending and Nicholson's rather extreme mental swings at that point. The devastating end sequence works particularly well though.
Definitely worth watching, a peak for Penn as a director, but you still feel there is a lot more to come.
SPOILER
It should be clear who the killer is but, without giving it totally away, the key scene at the end is the odd shop woman Nicholson encounters when going to speak to Vanessa Redgrace, shouting for her son. Essentially, Nicholson's character's desolate end comes although he has been right all along.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HAUNTING AND INTELLIGENT!!!, 12 Oct 2002
By 
Mr. N. Carnegie (Kirkcaldy, Scotland, UK.) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
Vaguely reminiscent in tone to Paul Schrader's movie 'Affliction', The Pledge is Sean Penn's third outing as a Director. As with his previous work it is very much a study of human beings, their strengths their weaknesses and their flaws. Beautifully photographed, it is also morally ambiguous and ultimately downbeat portrayal of a good man obsessed with fulfilling a promise and unable to let go of the past in his attempt to give his life meaning.
Opening with an unkempt Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) apparently rambling incoherently to himself, the rest of the movie is told in flashback, with Jerry returning from a fishing trip and about to start his last day as a police detective. However, when a young boy witnesses a retarded native American man (Beniccio Del Torro) fleeing in the snow and subsequently discovers the body of a young girl, who has been brutally raped and murdered, Jerry, despite his imminent retirement, promises the distraught parents that he will catch whomever is responsible. Later Jerry refuses to believe the murder is an open and shut case, carrying on his own investigation even when the officer in charge of the investigation (Aaron Eckhart) is only too keen to blame it on the now deceased Indian.
Jack Nicholson (who previously collaborated with Sean Penn, on the also excellent Crossing Guard) delivers one of his finest performances, in his subtle portrayal of a good man trying to keep a promise but at a personal cost. And whilst this is far from the type of feel good movie such as 'As Good As It Gets' that won him his last Best Actor Oscar, this is in my opinion a far superior movie and a far superior performance, in that although this haunting movie will not send you to bed with your faith in the human spirit restored, it will make you think and stay with you for much longer than any of your typical Hollywood fare. Also excellent is the supporting cast, especially including a cast against type dowdy single mother, Robin Wright Penn, as well as Aaron Eckhart, Sam Shepard, Beniccio Del Torro, Helen Mirren and Tom Noonan.
The Pledge is a disturbing film but it is beautifully filmed and for this praise must be directed toward Chris Menges (Local Hero) for his beautiful cinematography. Admittedly this is an uncommercial and slow paced movie which certainly wont be to everyone's taste and although some people will be critical of his at times somewhat ponderous style of directing, Sean Penn (dir. The Indian Runner and The Crossing Guard) subtly allows his actors to shine. Penn is as far as I'm concerned, one of America's finest character actors but he can surely now add to his resume the title of, one of America's great young film directors and I highly recommend this very intelligent movie.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unpredictable thriller, beautifully realized, 22 Sep 2004
By 
Dennis Littrell (SoCal/NorCal/Maui) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
The ending of this movie, of which we see glimpses in the beginning, is an example of the sort of cosmic irony that some world-renown writers apply to human affairs. It is not the sort of thing usually seen in a movie of course, since the mass mind at which most movies are directed will find it dissatisfying, even irritating.
The world-renowned author responsible for the ending of this tale of a retired cop on the trail of a serial killer of blond little girls in red dresses is none other than Swiss novelist and playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt who wrote the novel from which the screen play was adapted.
The "pledge" in the title is that of just-retiring Reno, Nevada cop Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) who is not convinced that a confession by a mentally-disturbed Native American, played convincingly by Benicio Del Toro, is genuine. Jerry Black gives his word to the mother of the murdered little girl that he will find the killer. However, he is no longer on the force and gets only intermittent help from his colleagues who think he has gone a little daffy. Nicholson, as usual, totally becomes the character he is playing and gives an outstanding performance. He is assisted by Aaron Eckhart who plays the detective who got the "confession," and by Robin Wright Penn who plays Lori, the mother of another little girl.
The direction by Sean Penn is uncluttered, focused and visually astute. For example, note the way the little girl playing in the swings between the highway and the gas station affects our expectation of what is to come. Penn also captures well the high country atmosphere around Reno, Nevada and attendant lifestyles, and for the most part keeps his auteur ambitions secondary to the telling of the story. The script by Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski is artistically true with crisp, direct dialogue and a fine dramatic structure. The film is also nicely cut so that everything is clear without any belaboring of the obvious. Some of the set scenes as Jerry Black interviews the grandmother of the slain little girl (Vanessa Redgrave in a cameo) and then a psychiatrist (..., who is just perfect in her experienced skepticism) are very well done. Most importantly though, Penn did not give in to those who would demand a commercial ending over an artistic one. And for this he paid the price, since this film was not well-received by the mass audience.
Of course it is impossible to discuss the ending without giving away too much, but I think we can safely say that in real life sometimes chance and fate (if you will) step in and change things dramatically which makes us see our limitations and realize that some of what happens to us is beyond our control. I think that is what happened to Jerry Black and Lori; yet notice, too, that it is integral to Jerry Black's character and all that he has been all his life for him to make the insensitive mistake that he does.
Incidentally the ending can be fixed in a sequel... Well, that is not likely to happen since this was NOT a box office success. Only box office successes get to be sequels--which somehow (bizarrely) reminds me of the line from the old Charlie the Tuna TV commercial: "Only good-tasting tunas get to be Starkist."
For those who are wondering who really did kill the little girls, I will give you a hint: he got his just deserts in a symbolically appropriate manner.
Bottom line: a fine artistic achievement, an excellent diversion, and a treat for those who are fed up with films that play out in a tiresome, predictable manner.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No redemption here for Jack., 9 July 2014
By 
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
About half-way through watching this film last night my wife said to me "This needs speeding up a bit!".

This means that there has been a carefully constructed build up of the main character (Jack Nicholson)playing a soon to retire city detective facing a last case,and promising to bring justice to the parents of a child found horribly murdered the previous day.

The only suspect has killed himself while in police custody,and everybody,including Aaron Eckhart,the detective leading the investigation, is happy.
Except Nicholson who suspects that the real killer is still at large, and the rest of the story is about his efforts to deliver justice to the childs parents and thereby closure and redemption for himself for making his 'pledge'.

As the film finished my wife spoke again,saying "Er?What was that about?"

This means that the ending of the story is the most contentious issue of the film,and has both pleased some and disappointed many more.

But it is the directors choice to include a downbeat,nihilistic end to his film: we remain divided, judge for yourself.
Frankly,there are nearly a dozen reputable traders selling this dvd at under one pound as I write-----well worth a punt in my view (July 2014).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent adult western from Robert Wise, 13 Mar 2011
By 
The CinemaScope Cat - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
During the Civil War, President Lincoln issued a proclamation that Confederate prisoners of war could regain their freedom if they joined the Union army in defending the frontier in the West. A group of Southern soldiers headed by Joseph Cotten volunteer for such an assignment but when they reach their destination, they find an embittered Southern hater (Jeff Chandler) in charge of the fort and whose arrogance brings a hellish fury to descend on the fort. Tensions abound, not only between the Union and Confederate soldiers but also between Chandler and his widowed Spanish sister in law (Linda Darnell) who he keeps a virtual prisoner and who is eager to return to her Monterey home. Directed by that excellent craftsman Robert Wise (WEST SIDE STORY), this is a wonderful western. All four principals (Cornel Wilde comprises the quartet) have rich, strongly delineated characters that make it easy for us to invest in their fates. Wise whips up an exciting, tense and fateful siege by the Kiowa for the finale. The intelligent and layered screenplay is by Casey Robinson (NOW VOYAGER) and the majestic score by Hugo Friedhofer. With Dale Robertson, Jay C. Flippen and Arthur Hunnicutt. A must for all western fans.

The Fox DVD from Spain is an excellent B&W transfer in its correct 1.33 ratio.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicholson in Hyperdrive, 6 Dec 2004
By 
Mr. B. Trotter "The Nightfly" (Broughton Gate, Buckinghamshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
Other reviews have outlined the plot, so we won't bother with that. I would also confirm that Sean Penn is a hugely talented director as good as he is as an actor and also the cinematography is stunning.
As for the actors,well another review said this was an actors'piece, well If that means getting many great actors to play a tiny part for small money because they love the script, well that's right, budget was $45m and and they got payed back in spades, I guess about $220m worldwide.
But they took the job and they all hit their high note, Del Toro, Vannesa Redgrave, Mickey Rourke, Helen Mirren and Harry Dean Stanton all just made it so much better.
But Jack is the Star in this one, he is incandescent, he just makes every other actor look mediocre. His best ever performance after Cuckoos Nest.
The strange thing is that you watch this film once and you will think "I enjoyed that", watch it again when you know the whole plot, then you actually start watching the performance, the direction and the Cinematography and you realise you have just watched a masterpiece. Saddest thing is.... check out IMDB and click on awards.. no one watched it twice :(
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, 5 Aug 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pledge [VHS] [2001] (VHS Tape)
The premise of the film is one man's hunt for a killer. Jack Nicholson is a cop in New Mexico - on his retirement day a small girl is found brutally slaughtered in the snow. He promises her mother that he will find her killer.
What I was expecting was a Hollywoodesque treatment of an aged cop who hunts down a killer against all odds, defying his old department, maybe having to beat a few demons from his past in the process (perhaps his wife left him due to his alcoholism, perhaps he blames himself for his pardner's death 20 years ago, etc, etc), and ultimately catching the bad guy and vindicating himself in the process.
What I got instead was a dark, disturbing and brave piece of film making.
Nicholson gives a subdued and introspective performance. His conviction that the killer is still out there eventually leads him into a new way of life, and his search becomes inextricably linked with his own happiness and security. ...
My only slight criticism is the gratuitous cameos - there's an all star cast here, but I don't think Vanessa Redgrave or Helen Mirren were required, having said that, Benicio del Toro is great (if you can recognise him), as is Robin Wright Penn.
This is an unsettling film - it's not a light hearted Saturday night video rental option, but if you want a film that engrosses you from start to finish, I can recommend it highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Edgy Thriller that delivers more than expected, 21 April 2014
By 
Mr Baz - See all my reviews
(#1 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
I watched this purely on a recommendation it had fallen under the radar so to speak at the time of release.
Nicholson plays the soon to retire police detective who becomes obsessed with solving a murder case, so much so he ends up devoting his time even after retirement to finding the killer. You might think this is nothing exceptional story wise here..but hang on

Where the Pledge impresses is the slow but careful unwinding of the story, solid direction from Penn., and a story that is far from predictable or contrived. Quite the reverse the Pledge diverts from the usual well worn path most films of this type walk down, into an unusually fresh story that has quite a sad but strong conclusion. (the start of the film hints at the ending)

A very solid supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, Tom Noonan, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, even Mickey Rourke and Harry Dean Stanton are in there.

Excellent story, solid plot and directing, great cast and a film well worth investigating

Acting: 5/5 (strong all round from the entire cast, Nicholson is on top form)
Plot: 4/5 (takes some unusual and unexpected twists and turns)
Script: 4/5 (good overall, though no risks taken)
Directing: 4/4 (Penn does a convincing job)

Overall 4/5 with a hint of a 4.5 at times
If you like suspense, mystery with an interesting plot the Pledge should be high up your watch list
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to subvert the predictability of Hollywood, 1 Dec 2004
This review is from: The Pledge [2001] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a masterpiece of a film. Surely Sean Penn, a deserved winner of an Oscar for his acting in Mystic River, ought to have been recognised for his direction of this wonderful film. Jack Nicholson reminds us that despite his forays into comedies (some ill chosen -Anger Management and Witches of Eastwick, others good -As Good As It Gets and About Schmidt)he is still the brilliant dramatic actor we saw in Cuckoo's Nest, Five Easy Pieces and The Shining. By declining to have equilibrium restored at the end of the film, Penn sticks two fingers up to the Hollywood convention of the soppy ending and provides us with a film that reflects reality, that isn't schmaltzy and which lulls the audience into the false security of thinking that all will be well in the end, as it usually is in this exciting medium, but then like life itself suggests that nothing can be taken for granted. From start to finish a great film with a FANTASTIC cast.
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The Pledge [2001] [DVD]
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