Pledge, The

Rated 3.0 Sean Penn’s directorial projects (The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard) just keep getting darker. Jack Nicholson stars as a shop-worn, retiring Reno cop who promises the mother of a mutilated, murdered little girl that he will find the killer. It’s a search that turns into an obsession as he buys a rural gas station in the vicinity of a similar crime and befriends a roadhouse barmaid (Robin Penn Wright) whose daughter is the same age and hair color of the two victims. Nicholson’s haunted performance and Penn’s moody direction keep the story’s more contrived elements at bay as familiar faces (Sam Shepard, Aaron Eckhart, Vanessa Redgrave, Benicio Del Toro, Mickey Rourke) pop up in small roles.