The Pledge (2001)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Aurora
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 118:06 (Case: 123)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sean Penn

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jack Nicholson
Benicio Del Toro
Aaron Eckhart
Helen Mirren
Tom Noonan
Robin Wright Penn
Vanessa Redgrave
Mickey Rourke
Sam Shepard
Lois Smith
Harry Dean Stanton
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Hans Zimmer
Klaus Badeli

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    There are a number of instances where I have missed a film during its theatrical exhibition, only to discover it on home video and promptly kick myself for not having seen it in theatres. There are other times, however, when I have seen a film on home video and thanked my stars that I didn't pay the required money to see it in the theatre. The Pledge is an example of the latter, with a real bang of a start giving way to a long, long setup that, unfortunately, doesn't ever reach a pay-off, and quite frankly the content of this film makes my mind boggle as to why it has an R rating.

    Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) is a detective with the Reno police department, and on the night of his retirement, when he should be simply partying and looking forward to a life away from the grime and crime, he volunteers to go with his colleagues to the scene of a grisly murder. After seeing the body of an eight year old girl, he is selected to go and talk to the parents, who don't take the news too well, and he swears to them that he will find their daughter's killer. Soon, a suspect is taken into custody, and the evidence seems to all point to him being responsible for what is quite a sickening crime. Unfortunately, with this suspect, a native American named Toby Jay Wadenah (Benicio Del Toro), being mentally deficient, Jerry is not convinced that they have the right man. It soon becomes a moot point, however, as Toby manages to steal a police officer's pistol and shoot himself with it as he is being led to a cell.

    With that, Jerry retires and tries to lead a normal life, but he finds that he is unable to get this murder out of his head, despite the fact that the case is considered to be closed by his former workmates. Eventually, he buys a petrol station and meets a woman named Lori (Robin Wright Penn), whom he becomes quite close with. Lori has a young daughter named Chrissy (Pauline Roberts), and with Jerry's constant paranoia about the coming of a large man in a black car to kill another small girl, he slowly begins to unravel. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I think it was ruined for me because I expected something with a bit more action in it, although one little event in it is quite delicious in its irony. Suffice it to say that this film relies on implied tension rather than action in order to entertain its audience, which won't suit every viewer.

    One interesting thing to look out for, however, is the Godfather-like manner in which oranges and orange juice are used in this film. It's also worth keeping your eyes open for a haunting cameo performance by Mickey Rourke, one that gives the scene he is in a suitably dour feel. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I would say that this film is in fact very well done, even if it takes a lot of thinking about the story and some of its deeper meanings.

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Transfer Quality


    The Pledge is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    This transfer is very sharp, with the sumptuous backgrounds leaping out of the screen to greet the detail junkies. The shadow detail is excellent, and there is no low-level noise.

    The colours in this film are generally quite bright and varied, with lush shades of green in particular dominating the picture. The transfer captures the colours with no signs of smearing or composite artefacts.

    MPEG artefacts were not found in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing that was rare and generally quite easy to miss. The most objectionable instance I found was on a shop window at 33:22, and this was really quite minor compared to other instances of this artefact that I have seen lately. There was some noise and aliasing on a closed-circuit monitor during the interrogation at 22:27, but this was more than likely intended to be in the picture. Film artefacts were so minor and infrequent that I hardly noticed any. I'm not even sure that there are any in this transfer.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles on this disc are about 99 percent accurate to the spoken dialogue, and strategically placed within the frame, often over whomever is speaking a given line.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, but I failed to notice any layer change pause during the feature.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only the one soundtrack on this disc: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 kilobits per second.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, even from the child actors. There were no discernable problems with audio sync.

    The score music in this film is credited to Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt, with Michael Brook, Craig Eastman, Heitor Pereira, and Martin Tillman providing additional music. The score is used to supplement the tension in some scenes, such as when Jack Nicholson's character is suddenly alarmed by a sign that the killer he is pursuing is around. In this aim, it is quite effective, although I wouldn't listen to it without the film to accompany it.

    The surround channels are used during this film for the ambient sounds of forests and backwater roads, with the occasional passing car and music cue thrown in for good measure. Punters who buy this disc expecting to hear whizzing sound effects that are creatively spread from one part of the soundstage to another will be disappointed, but this film really doesn't demand much from the surround channels, anyway.

    The subwoofer was mildly present during this film, but it didn't have a great deal to work with, only really coming to life when Benicio Del Toro's character shoots himself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    After some of the Roadshow titles I've seen with large collections of extras, I am a little disappointed with this effort.


    The menu is static, accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Clocking in at two minutes and seventeen seconds, this theatrical trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Jack Nicholson, director Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Sam Shephard, Benicio Del Toro, and Aaron Eckhart are presented under this menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this disc are virtually identical, except the Region 1 version only features one biography for Jack Nicholson, and the soundtrack on offer there is encoded at 384 kilobits per second. An additional French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is on the Region 1 disc, but all in all, I'd declare the Region 4 version to be the marginal winner.


    The Pledge is not a conventional film, and it is one that takes some digesting. I'd have to say that it is a very difficult film to summarise because there is little happening during its two-hour length, yet it is totally believable and tense. I recommend that everyone should watch it at least once, although I have to repeat my statement that I am truly astounded that the OFLC chose to slap this film with an R rating.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is somewhat frontal, but otherwise excellent.

    The extras are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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