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
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
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
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