Jackis back as a detective
in ‘The Pledgei
By Ken Fountain
Senior Staff Writer
Every few years, Jack Nicholson takes a
break from his cartoonish, over-the-top persona to give a film performance
that reminds us why he is still one of our greatest actors. One of those
performances is in his latest collaboration with director Sean Penn, The
In this dark psychological drama, Nicholson
plays Jerry Black, a retiring Reno, Nev., police detective who during his
last day on the job investigates the brutal rape and murder of a young
girl. After he breaks the news to the victimis family, the mother exacts
from him a promise "on your soulis salvation" to find the killer.
A suspect is quickly apprehended: a mentally
impaired Native American (played by Benicio Del Toro, in a creepy performance
completely unlike his role in Traffic). It seems the case is closed.
Jack Nicholson returns to
the screen, minus catchphrases, in the new Sean Penn film The Pledge.
Nicholson stars as a retiring Reno detective on the trail of a killer.
But Black is unconvinced, and despite the
fact that heis no longer a cop, he continues poking around, learning that
there have been two similar murders in recent years.
His search leads him to a small town in
Nevadais fishing country, where he buys a gas station and keeps his eye
out for suspects. He also becomes involved with a waitress (played by the
directoris wife, Robin Wright Penn, appearing even less glamorous than
she did in Unbreakable) who happens to have a daughter who matches
the profile of the victims.
While it may seem the film is just a routine
serial murder thriller, the real business of The Pledge is to depict
the psychological toll Black pays. Nicholson movingly plays a lonely man
who allows his search for a possibly phantom killer to become a personal
obsession that gets in the way of his making any true human contact.
The filmis resolution, while heartbreaking,
seems somewhat forced, unlike the previous Penn/Nicholson effort, the excellent
The Crossing Guard. Still, The Pledge stands as an above-average
film that gives Nicholson a platform to showcase his ability to convey
the hidden pain of a common man.
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Benicio Del
*** 1/2 (of five)