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The Crossing Guard

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Crossing Guard

Starring: Jack Nicholson, David Morse
Director: Sean Penn
Rated: R
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: November 1995
Genres: Drama, Suspense


*Also starring: Anjelica Huston, Robin Wright, Piper Laurie, Richard Bradford, Robbie Robertson, John Savage, Priscilla Barnes, Kari Wuhrer



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

THE CROSSING GUARD is a movie written, directed, and co-produced by Sean Penn. Penn has done this all once before in a movie call THE INDIAN RUNNER (1991) which I have never seen. I hope it is not as flawed as this mess of a movie.

THE CROSSING GUARD starts with a support group for people who have had relatives killed by drunk drivers. In the group is Mary Gale (Anjelica Huston) since her then seven year old daughter Emile was killed five years earlier. Mary is a real estate agent who now lives with her two young boys about age seven and her new husband. Her old husband and the father of Emile and the two boys is Freddy Gale (Jack Nicholson).

Freddy is a New York City jeweler and an alcoholic who spends his time hanging out at cheap strip joints with his male buddies and spending his nights with prostitutes and bottles of Jack Daniel's. Freddy has one raison d'etre, he plans on killing his daughter's killer, John Booth (David Morse) when he get out from prison. John Booth, name chosen for obvious reasons, is scheduled to get out the day the movie starts since he has just finished serving his five years for manslaughter for killing Emile with his car while drunk.

What Penn's script attempts to do is to turn the world upside down. The actual killer, Booth, is shown as a shy, tender, and compassionate man full of great guilt who thinks he may deserve to die. Penn creates him as a totally sympathetic character where as the victim's father and hence a victim himself as well, is a sleaze bag and a degenerate who has never even visited his own daughter's grave. Hence, the bad guy is the good and vice versa. In short, it doesn't work.

The whole movie is about Freddy planning on killing John. Both Freddy and John and everyone else in the movie are aware of Freddy's plans from almost the beginning. Whether Freddy does or not kill him, you will find you do not care in the least since none of the characters are believable. John was written so sweet he is in danger of having a diabetic attack, and Freddy is so evil you keep wanting a truck to run over him.

Jack Nicholson is a brilliant actor that is wasted in this movie. The scene of him drunk and crying on the phone in the bathroom is the low point of a dismal movie. Penn has Nicholson in the whispering mode with many of his lines. What effect this is supposed to create I could never figure out.

The dialog is so bad it almost gets funny. One of the times Freddy comes to kill John, John asks, "Would you mind closing the door. I don't want to wake my parents." Later John muses to his girlfriend about his impending death, "Freedom is overrated." In the worse piece of script we have John asking his girlfriend, "What is guilt? Can you define it?" She looks very serious and thinks for what seems forever and then answers, "Want to dance?"

The movie is full of strong imagery. In one of the more striking, we have John Booth with his arms outstretched Christ like chanting "come on, come on" waiting for Freddy to arrive and do him in. John's ridiculous image was enhanced by his wearing dark glasses in a darken trailer. From there we cut to the scene of Freddy crying in the bathroom. The show is so full of angst, it is like a class film project in Directing 101.

The cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond is quite pedantic. We have superfluous slow motion shots to call our attention to obvious points. We have fast pans with hand held cameras to get us dizzy. Finally we have lots of night scenes filmed in a medium shade of black.

THE CROSSING GUARD runs on and on at 1:57, and I was foolish enough to have seen every minute of it. For some reason I was curious as to the ending. Don't be; it isn't worth it. The film is rated R for lots of sleazy nudity, alcoholism, some violence, bad language, and sex. I would just as soon everybody stayed away from it, but it would be acceptable for mature teenagers if they really wanted to see it. I give the movie a big thumbs down and award it a single star for at least trying hard.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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