The Pledge

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The collaboration between Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson is something that I personally discovered a few years ago while watching “The Crossing Guard”. As amazing a movie as that was, I couldn’t wait for their next movie. My prayers (ok…I didn’t pray) have been answered when The Pledge came out this last winter. Though I never made it to the theaters to see it, I heard nothing but good remarks about it and heard essentially that it “was weird”. Sporting an all star cast, this movie is still all Jack Nicholson. Nicholson restrains himself as compared to most of his roles where he’s so over the top, that is seems like he’s on valiums during this one. But he’s still Jack. Ironically enough, this isn’t a movie about joining a fraternity! Rather, The Pledge is a promise that Detective Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) makes to a mother who has just learned that her 8 year-old daughter has been sexually assaulted and murdered. Jerry has been a detective in Reno, Nevada for quite some time. Jerry, it would seem, would rather be fishing and drinking some whiskey than working as of late, but it’s time for Jerry to retire and move on with his life. I mentioned the cast earlier and Jerry’s fellow officers consist of Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart) and Jerry’s boss, Eric Pollack (Sam Shepard). Grossly underused is the talent of Benicio Del Toro who is almost unrecognizible as a mentally challenged Indian accused of murder.

We find ourselves thrust right into the action when the body of a blonde 8 year-old girl is found in the woods of Nevada. Jerry, at his retirement party, goes with some of his other officers to check it out and becomes engrossed in the case, except for the fact that he only has a few hours left as a cop. Jerry then meets with the parents of the girl and makes a promise (a “Pledge” if you will) to her that he will find the person who did this and see that justice is served. Jerry obviously comes from a time when someone’s word meant something, because he continues to pursue the mysterious killer. Jerry is convinced that the killer will strike again, as he learns that the same type of murder has happened before (8 years ago) and more recently (3 years ago) and now with this latest victim, he believes that another will happen in a matter of months. Known as “The Wizard” by the girl who died, she drew a picture of him and referred to him as such. The killer is someone who the victims have trusted and has hence, been their downfall. Jerry moves to a town and buys a convenient store in order to get closer to what he thinks is the killer’s next stop. He goes about his business and tries to have some sort of a life, meeting a local waitress by the name of Lori (Robin Wright Penn). It just so happens that Lori’s daughter is 8 years old and blonde and a prime suspect for the next murder. Coincidence?

The Pledge will remain with me for a long time because of the ending. Of course, I won’t tell what happens, but it would be so easy for this to be yet another serial killer, stalker type movie. Thankfully, Sean Penn doesn’t do that to us. With a cast of seasoned actors like Benicio Del Toro, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael O’Keefe (Danny Noonan himself), Sam Shepard, Robin Wright Penn, Vanessa Redgrave and Aaron Eckhart, it’s hard for this movie not to be the least bit intriguing. You’ll have to pay attention, mind you, but the sheer eerieness of the movie all comes into play as the movie progresses. As I mentioned below, the DVD isn’t that loaded with what we’ve come to expect from Warner, but I suppose a lot of movies would be lucky to have the picture and sound that this movie sports. So why look a gift horse in the mouth, eh? The Pledge is quite an original movie on a not so original subject, but the performances are great and I would recommend this movie to anyone looking for an offbeat drama.

Video: How does it look?

The Pledge is shown in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for widescreen TV’s, as are most all of Warner’s new releases. With the lack of supplements on this dual-layer disc, the image is spread across two layers and the image glows it’s so good. Naturally, being a new to DVD movie, the transfer should be of the highest quality, and this movie is no exception. The Pledge uses a lot of outdoor scenes to convey it’s image. Like Fargo, some of the scenes (particularly in the beginning) are so bleak that you struggle to make out any type of image. The fleshtones are right on target as are all the other levels. I did see a bit of what I want to call artifacting, which did throw me a bit, but during the earlier indoor scenes, there was some breakup. Aside from that, it’s another great transfer from Warner and one thing you won’t be disappointed with is how this movie looks.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Pledge carries with it a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, though it’s certainly not the most active track I’ve heard. A movie like this doesn’t rely on audio to convey it’s message, rather the dialogue and plot. Still, there are moments where all five channels are humming away and it’s rather impressive that such a subtile movie can take advantage of the sound and make some of the scenes come alive. A few gunshots can be heard throughout as that is what makes up the majority of the action in this movie. Dialogue is clean and well-centered. Quite simply, the audio serves it’s purpose and nothing more. No complaints here, but no compliments either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

For a movie as interesting and intriguing as this is, a Sean Penn/Jack Nicholson commentary would be such a nice feature to have, but no such luck. We’re limited to the theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen and some cast and crew bios. But in these days when movies come out and then are released again as “Special Editions”, it may pay to hold your breath on this one…

Disc Scores