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"THE PLEDGE"
(2001) (Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright Penn) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Extreme Extreme Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Minor Moderate None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Heavy Moderate Moderate Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Honoring his promise to a mother, a retired Nevada detective becomes obsessed with finding the killer of her young daughter before he strikes again.
PLOT:
Jerry Black (JACK NICHOLSON) is a Reno homicide detective who's only a few hours away from retiring when he and his partner, Stan Krolak (AARON ECKHART), arrive at the snowy murder scene of Jenny Larsen, a blond eight-year-old who was sexually assaulted before being killed. Jerry then meets with the victim's parents and promises the girl's mother (PARTRICIA CLARKSON) that he'll find the killer.

It doesn't take long for the police to arrest Toby Jay Wadenah (BENICIO DEL TORO), an American Indian who was spotted at the scene and previously served time for rape and other crimes. Stan manages to get a confession out of the suspect, but Jerry's concerned that the mentally handicapped man might not exactly know what he's confessing to. Nevertheless, all of the evidence points to him, and after he takes his own life, Stan and their boss, Eric Pollack (SAM SHEPARD), believe the case to be solved and closed.

Yet, something doesn't sit right with Jerry, and instead of heading off on a post-retirement fishing vacation in Mexico, the former detective starts snooping around. After talking to the girl's grandmother, Annalise Hansen (VANESSA REDGRAVE), her best friend at school, and even the father of another victim (MICKEY ROURKE), Jerry begins to see connections with other similar and still unsolved murder cases.

When neither Stan nor Eric will reopen the case, Jerry sets off on his own, buying a gas station strategically located near the middle of where the various murders have taken place. He eventually meets and befriends a local waitress, Lori (ROBIN WRIGHT PENN), whose young daughter, Chrissy (PAULINE ROBERTS), fits the profile of the past victims.

As time passes and Jerry becomes closer to Lori and Chrissy and grows increasingly suspicious of a single, local man, Gary Jackson (TOM NOONAN), he does what he can to keep his former promise of catching the killer, a pledge that ultimately causes him to make some questionable judgment calls while doing so.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's not very likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong violence and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JACK NICHOLSON plays a retired homicide detective who becomes obsessed with finding a homicidal pedophile after promising a mother he'd do just that. As such, he occasionally goes over the line while doing so and possibly seems a bit crazy at times. He also uses strong profanity, smokes, drinks and fools around a bit with a woman.
  • ROBIN WRIGHT PENN plays that woman who's abused by her husband and tries to raise her daughter as best as she can. She briefly smokes and uses some strong profanity.
  • AARON ECKHART plays Jerry's detective partner who doesn't agree with his assessment that the killer is still on the loose. He also makes some disparaging remarks about an American Indian.
  • SAM SHEPARD plays their boss who has the same opinion about the case.
  • BENICIO DEL TORO plays a mentally handicapped American Indian who takes his own life after confessing to a murder that he may or may not have committed.
  • PARTRICIA CLARKSON plays the mother of the victim who makes Jerry promise to catch the killer.
  • TOM NOONAN plays a local man who draws Jerry's suspicion due to the attention he pays to Chrissy.
  • PAULINE ROBERTS plays that young girl who fits the profile of the previous victims and talks to strange men who approach her and give her gifts.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is listed as heavy due to at least 8 uses of the "f" word, while various other expletives and colorful phrases are also used. Several sexually related comments are made, while a man and woman briefly kiss and she places his hand on her clothed breast.

    Violence consists of an off-screen murder of a young girl, while we see various graphic photos of other similar murder victims. A wife is beaten off camera, while a murder suspect commits suicide with a gunshot into the mouth (with very bloody/gory results). We also see an imagined and bloody murder scene, as well as the graphic aftermath after a fiery car accident (with several views of the charred victim inside).

    Some of those scenes and others (including those where a young girl may be in danger) might be unsettling, tense or even scary, and some of them result in tense family moments. Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while certain characters also drink and smoke.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who might want to see this picture, you may want to take a closer look at our detailed content listings for more specific examples of what occurs in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • A person drinks some form of liquor while ice fishing.
  • People have beer and drinks at Jerry's retirement party and do so again later in the same scene.
  • Stan states that Toby likes his marijuana (but we don't see any or any use).
  • Jerry has several drinks and a beer at an airport bar.
  • People have drinks in a local bar, including Jerry who orders a beer (we also see many bottles of liquor behind the bar).
  • Jerry pours Lori some liquor.
  • Lori brings Jerry a beer.
  • Jerry drinks liquor straight from the bottle.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • At the nighttime crime scene, we see brief glimpses of the young victim's body (some of what looks like blood in the flash images could be her red dress). We do see a quick shot of her bloody face and head.
  • A crime suspect puts a handgun in his mouth and pulls the trigger, killing himself and sending blood (and possibly brain matter) spraying back against the wall. We then see lots of blood on the wall, floor and the suspect's body.
  • We see various color and black and white photos of prior homicide victims (all young girls) who are dead and rather bloody (with some obviously having had their throats slit).
  • Although we don't see the actual act, we do see that Lori's husband beat her. As such, we see some bruises and scrapes on her face, as well as a bloody lip that's leaked some blood down her chin.
  • We see a brief flash of a previous, bloody victim.
  • Jerry opens a door to see a very bloody, young victim and a murder suspect holding a bloody scythe or similar instrument (but this turns out to be a hallucination).
  • We see the aftermath of a car accident where both the car and victim inside are completely engulfed in flames (we see a close-up of the victim's head that's now completely charred black).
  • We see some slightly bloody cuts/scrapes on Jerry's face and forehead.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The person responsible for abducting, sexually assaulting and murdering young girls obviously has extreme cases of both types of attitudes.
  • Various detectives make disparaging remarks (and drawings) about Toby who's an American Indian (one singing "One little, two little, three little Indians..." and Stan calls him "Chief," etc.).
  • Stan also essentially coerces/persuades Toby, who's mentally handicapped, to confess to the crime.
  • We do hear, however, that Toby has committed over crimes including rape and theft.
  • It appears that Jerry has broken into a school at night to snoop around a bit (he takes a child's drawing from the wall). He then sneaks a photo of another murder scene from another cop who told him that he couldn't have it because that case was still open.
  • A miscellaneous cop states that graphic murders don't bother him and that he occasionally even gets an adrenaline rush from seeing the carnage.
  • Although we don't see the actual act, we do see that Lori's husband beat her.
  • Jerry doesn't tell Lori that Chrissy evidently was contacted by a man who may be the killer, or that he, Stan and other armed cops will be watching the scene to catch the killer by using the girl as bait.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" and "Blood/Gore" may also be unsettling or suspenseful to viewers.
  • Jerry and others hear a gunshot and then race off to find a suspect struggling with a cop over his gun. The suspect appears to bite the cop and then finally gets the upper hand, while various cops aim their guns at him. The suspect then puts the handgun in his mouth and pulls the trigger, killing himself and sending blood everywhere.
  • After we've been prepped to worry about young blond girls being the next victim, Lori goes into moderate panic mode when she suddenly can't find Chrissy in a crowded outdoor flea market.
  • In relation to the above, we then see a snowplow driver stop by and talk to Chrissy out in the front yard where she's playing by herself (and thus wonder if he's the killer, and if so, if he's going to do anything to her).
  • Another similar scene plays out like the above several months later.
  • In a later scene, Jerry returns home to learn that Chrissy has gone to church with the above suspect. He then races across town, thinking the worst, and then gets to the church, opens the door and finds a bloody murder scene (but it turns out he was only imagining that last bit).
  • Jerry and others wait for a murder suspect to show up and attempt to abduct and/or kill a young girl.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Worn/carried by Jerry and other cops and used by a suspect to commit suicide.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "You f*cking bastard," "You're f*cking crazy," "Nuts" (crazy) and "What the hell is he doing?"
  • While counting out three steps he's going to take, Stan ends with the last one being his middle finger extended.
  • A suspect commits suicide by shooting himself in the mouth.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • The sudden sound of a gunshot might startle some viewers.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful/ominous music plays during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 8 "f" words, 2 slang terms for female genitals ("p*ssy" and "beaver"), 2 hells, 2 S.O.B.s, 3 uses of "G-damn," 2 each of "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "Oh God" and "Oh Jesus" and 1 use each of "For God's sakes" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • While interrogating Toby (who's a beaver trapper) for the rape and murder of a little girl, Stan uses the word "beaver" as slang for female genitals and then mentions "pretty young p*ssy" in the same context.
  • After watching that and the general way in which Stan interrogates Toby by being his "friend," Jerry comments, "He practically blew him."
  • We briefly see most of the underside of a woman's thigh nearly all the way up to her behind as she paints her toenails.
  • Jerry discusses the young victim's drawing with a psychiatrist, and that woman turns the attention of the conversation over to Jerry, asking him various things, including if he's still sexually active (she asks this several times and he doesn't answer).
  • After Jerry checks to see why Lori is crying, she eventually stops and caresses his face. She then kisses him, and takes his hand and places it on her clothed breast. He then kisses her and the scene ends there (although it's obviously implied more fooling around and/or sex occurs).
  • SMOKING
  • Jerry smokes more than 10 times, while Lori and various miscellaneous characters also smoke at least once.
  • We see a photo of Jerry and several other men from the past who smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We see the reaction of the murder victim's parents when they're told the bad news about her (shock, disbelief, grief, etc.) and the father gets mad when Jerry tells him it's not a good idea to see his daughter's body until the next day.
  • Jerry briefly talks with a father who's still distraught about his young daughter's unsolved disappearance from several years earlier.
  • Although we don't see the actual act, we do see that Lori's husband beat her and she talks about a restraining order against him. She and Chrissy then move in with Jerry to get away from this abusive husband.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • People who prey on young girls as their victims and the homicide detectives who often spend years of their lives trying to solve such cases.
  • Why kids shouldn't talk to strangers.
  • Jerry's actions and methods of trying to find and catch the killer.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Although we don't see the actual act, a person sexually assaults and then murders a young girl (we see her body not long after she's been killed). We also see various and occasionally graphic photos of other similar murder victims from the past.
  • Jerry and others hear a gunshot and then race off to find a suspect struggling with a cop over his gun. The suspect appears to bite the cop and then finally gets the upper hand, while various cops aim their guns at him. The suspect then puts the handgun in his mouth and pulls the trigger, killing himself and sending blood everywhere.
  • Although we don't see the actual act, we do see that Lori's husband beat her.
  • Jerry drives his truck through several fences while racing to save Chrissy.
  • Jerry opens a door to see a very bloody, young victim and a murder suspect holding a bloody scythe or similar instrument. He then pulls out his gun and fires it (but all of that turns out to be a hallucination).
  • Lori slaps Jerry several times on the body while mad at him.
  • We see the aftermath of a car accident where both the car and victim inside are completely engulfed in flames (we see a close-up of the victim's head that's now completely charred black).



  • Reviewed January 16, 2001 / Posted January 19, 2001

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