The Pledge (2001)

Directed by Sean Penn

A police chief about to retire pledges to help a woman find her daughter's killer.

If it was made today, The Pledge would be a five or six part semi-prestige TV show, released and produced by one of the second-tier streaming platforms. It would be reviewed generally poorly, noting that it trades in all the clichés of the genre (retired cop, one last case, haunted by his past, potential romantic interest in divorced single mother, blond innocent daughter, molester bad guy, etc.). Still, there's something interesting about the film, at least in its first half: the second bit has something decidedly wrong with it.


The gloomy things 'The Pledge' has to say about manhood are antithetical to the heroic rites of Hollywood action-adventure films and professional sports through which American mass culture channels and idealizes male violence. The movie has the audacity to suggest that all that ritualized sublimation ultimately doesn't solve anything.

Stephen Holden (New York Times)