The Pledge movie review - Aussieboyreviews


This Jack Nicholson crime-mystery has a very interesting story, clever elements and is effectively-made, but is ruined by the inconvenient ending. The disappointing third act really betrays the excellent performances and gritty themes.


Preparing to retire from the police force, an experienced homicide detective pledges to catch the killer of a young girl.

Movie Images

Movie details

Director: Sean Penn
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Clarkson, Taryn Knowles, Beau Daniels, Pauline Roberts
Writer: Jerzy Kromolowski, Mary Olson-Kromolowski
Release Date (Australia): 9 August 2001
Runtime: 124 minutes/2h 4m
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Drama
Country: USA
Language: English

CONTENT GUIDE (warning: May contain spoilers)

Themes (R18+)

The film contains disturbing themes of and references to the murder and sexual assault of a young child. There are also graphic depictions of a child’s mutilated corpse, autopsy photos and a man committing suicide by shooting himself.

Violence (R18+)

The film contains bloody depictions of a young child’s mutilated corpse, as well as a depiction of a man committing suicide by putting a gun in his mouth and shooting himself through the back of his head, accompanied by a blood spray and spatter.

Coarse Language (M)

The film contains several aggressive uses of the word “f**king”.

Sex (PG)

There are clinical verbal references to a man being sexually active and a scene of implied sexual activity.

mpaa rating

R (for strong violence and language)

Aussie boy's thoughts

With an exceptional performance by Jack Nicholson, a slow-burning pace that doesn’t become boring and a gritty crime-mystery concept surrounding a young girl’s murder, The Pledge could be much better if the ending were more convenient and fulfilling. This movie is a gripping murder-mystery as the story revolves around a retiring homicide detective who pledges to catch the killer of this young child, but it’s also equally as much of a psychological character study as it also takes a significant focus on Nicholson’s character as he slowly becomes crazy.

Just as always in most of his movies, Jack Nicholson is the highlight of The Pledge. Due to his voice, his facial expression and his character’s tone, he is truly unforgettable in this role he plays as a frustrated and persistent homicide detective trying to catch the killer of a young child while also losing his sanity. You see him and know him from other big movies like The Shining, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he really acts like a detective.

Moving on from the acting that’s worth having more than just one paragraph dedicated to, this film is also very well-directed by Sean Penn, but despite the very grim and horrible subject matter, there’s not as much darkness in the visual tone for this film than there could have been. This would mean it would be even darker, grimmer and more uncomfortable to watch if the colours had been kept dark to match the overall mood, similar to psychological neo-noir films like Seven. It’s also worth noting that this movie runs for 2 hours, which makes it slow, but not boring either.

By the end of the first two acts, you know that the resolution to the mystery is gonna make it an exceptional movie, but it takes a fateful turn as the story of this crime-mystery wastes its potential and ends in the worst way it could possibly end. Without giving spoilers, it fulfils some of the questions, but is still extremely unsatisfying and pretty much ruins the entire movie, especially considering that the first act begins with such promising anticipation. The Pledge is not a film you should see if you want to be not only compelled, but left satisfied with its conclusion.

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