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The Pledge

A promotional film poster for The Pledge
Directed by Sean Penn
Produced by Andrew Stevens
Written by Jerzy Kromolowski
Mary Olson-Kromolowski
Starring Jack Nicholson
Patricia Clarkson
Benicio del Toro
Aaron Eckhart
Helen Mirren
Tom Noonan
Robin Wright Penn
Vanessa Redgrave
Mickey Rourke
Sam Shepard
Music by Klaus Badelt
Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Chris Menges
Editing by Jay Lash Cassidy
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s) January 19, 2001 (USA)
Running time 124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35,000,000-$45,000,000 est.

The Pledge is a 2001 mystery film directed by Sean Penn. It is based on the 1958 novella Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman (The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel), by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Dürrenmatt wrote the The Pledge to refine the theme he originally developed in the screenplay for the 1958 film Es geschah am hellichten Tag (It Happened in Broad Daylight).



The film begins with Police Detective Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) ice fishing, then driving to work. After work, he goes to a restaurant, where the Department has thrown him a retirement party. Police Captain Eric Pollack (Sam Shepard) gives Jerry a gift, a trip to go fishing in Mexico. The party is interrupted by the discovery of a murdered young girl. Jerry decides to go with another Detective, Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart) to the scene of the crime.

Jerry delivers the bad news to the girl's parents. The mother (Patricia Clarkson) makes Jerry swear on a cross that the girl had made that Jerry will find the killer.

A suspect is found the next day. Stan goes in to interview the suspect, who is a mentally retarded Indian man. (Benicio Del Toro) The man eventually confesses, but steals one of the deputies guns and commits suicide with it. To all of the other Detectives, the case is over. But Jerry doesn't think the killer died that night. He is still adamant about his pledge to find the killer, and doesn't go on the fishing trip the department gave to him.

Jerry visits the victim's Grandmother (Vanessa Redgrave). The Grandmother tells Jerry that the girl told many stories, and a later visit to one of her friends reveals that Ginny had a friend she called "The Giant". Jerry sees a picture Ginny drew of the Giant that does not resemble the Indian, and Jerry takes the picture.

Jerry goes to Stan, and asks him to reopen the case. Stan refuses, but gets Jerry more information about similar cases in the area. Jerry's further investigation leads him to three unsolved and eerily similar cases that the Indian man could not have committed. Jerry presents these cases to Captain Pollack and Stan, who are doubtful. Jerry shows them the picture of Ginny and the Giant. Jerry once again tells them he is adamant about finding the real killer, and leaves.

Jerry rents a cabin and spends some time fishing. He notices a gas station near the lake and likes the location so much he asks the owner (Harry Dean Stanton) if he is interesting in selling the place. Jerry eventually buys the gas station and moves in to the small house behind it. Jerry meets a local bartender named Lori (Robin Wright Penn). He slowly becomes a father figure to her young daughter Chrissy. After Lori has a fight with her ex husband, she moves in with Jerry.

Soon Chrissy becomes friends with a local reverend named Gary Jackson (Tom Noonan). Jerry is uncomfortable about this. He begins to think Jackson is the killer. Using Chrissy as bait, Jerry stages an operation, with Stan's help, to catch Jackson in the act. Another car is shown coming to the destination, but not in time. After hours of waiting, Stan and the other Police leave. They tell Lori what happened, and Lori screams at Jerry about letting her daughter be in danger.

The car that was shown approaching is seen destroyed, and it is left unsure if Gary Jackson or someone else was in the car, or if the person in the car even was the killer. Jerry goes back to the gas station, and starts mumbling and talking to himself, seemingly sure that the murderer will still come.


The film was shot mainly on location in the British Columbia interior in Canada. While the opening scenes were filmed in Reno, Nevada, the rest of the film was shot in Keremeos, Princeton, Hedley, Merritt and Lytton, all in British Columbia.



Critical response to The Pledge was generally favorable, but the film did not fare particularly well at the box office.[1][2] Its domestic receipts grossed approximately $19 million USD, with foreign receipts adding another $9 million, leaving the total well short of the film's budget, estimated at between $35 and $45 million.[3][4]


  • Sean Penn for the Palme d'Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival[5]
  • 2002 for the Danish Bodil
  • Benicio Del Toro 2002 for the ALMA Award
  • Brittany Tiplady 2002 for the Young Artist Award
  • Hans Zimmer 2001 for the World Soundtrack Award


  1. ^ (2001, May 15). "US directors laud Cannes audiences", BBC News
    "International critics praised The Pledge when it opened in the US in January, but its box-office takings were mediocre, despite an acclaimed performance by Nicholson."
  2. ^ (2001, January 25). "Legal spat forces Penn film out of Berlin",
    "The Pledge opened in the US last weekend to respectful reviews but lukewarm box office."
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Pledge". Retrieved 2009-10-18. 

External links



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