out of 4
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The Crossing Guard
Review by Dragan Antulov
1½ stars out of 4
Some movies are bound to be hurt by inflated expectations of
experienced moviegoers. THE CROSSING GUARD, 1995 drama
written and directed by Sean Penn, is one of such examples. It had
everything a powerful drama was supposed to have - serious
thought-provoking subject and first-class cast - but some important
ingredient was still missing.
The plot of the film starts six years after tragic event that had forever
changed lives of two protagonists. Freddy Gale (played by Jack
Nicholson) is a jeweller whose daughter was run over by drunken
driver. Unlike his wife Mary (played by Anjelica Huston), Freddy
never got over this tragedy and his life now consists of alcohol, visits
to seedy strip joints and endless self-pity. The only thing that gives
him some sense of direction is the fact that John Booth (played by
David Morse), man who had killed his daughter, is about to be
released from prison. Freddy counts days before this event,
determined to kill him. When two men meet, it turns out that John
has spent prison years tortured with guilt and he is ready to accept
whatever Freddy has in store for him. Freddy decides to give him
three more days to live and two men spend them in different fashion
- John meets attractive musician Jo Jo (played by Robin Wright-Penn)
while Freddy continues to self-destruct with booze.
At first glance it looks that THE CROSSING GUARD would tackle
serious issues of grief, crime, punishment and revenge in original
fashion. Basic plot of a crime victim seeking revenge on the criminal
is given an interesting twist. The victim is hardly someone the
audience would root for - he is an alcoholic, more than able to ruin
lives of people around himself. The criminal, on the other hand, is
hardly a monster - instead he looks and acts almost like a saint,
deeply affected with guilt and being ready to accept punishment.
Sean Penn, one of the best actors in contemporary America, creates
superb characterisation and knows how to utilise his colleagues'
skills. Unfortunately, Penn doesn't know how to restrain some of
them, especially Nicholson, whose role at times sink into over-acting.
David Morse is much better in his minimalist performance. Another
of Penn's problems is his inability to establish proper pace for this
drama; many scenes are overlong and the ending is utterly
disappointing. Because of that THE CROSSING GUARD puts too
much of viewers' patience to the test, thus leaving the bitter taste of
Copyright © 2003 Dragan Antulov
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