Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Crossing Guard (1995)

Intriguing, sometimes powerful, drama, written and directed by Sean Penn, which never quite lives up to the potential hinted at by its premise. Five years after a drunk driving accident has taken his daughter's life, her father -- a self-destructive man with a hair-trigger temper (Jack Nicholson) -- seeks revenge on her killer, a young man just released from jail. The father wrestles with own anger and hatred, his relationship with his estranged family, and his decision to take the young man's life, while the young man in turn struggles to come to terms with the consequences of his past actions and to adjust to his new life after prison.

Penn takes the melodramatic material of this story and treats it as a character study. Nicholson puts in a typically fine performance, and the film lags a bit when he is off-screen. Anjelica Huston has a good but all-too-brief role as Nicholson's ex-wife, who urges him to move on from the grief and anger he feels over their daughter's death. An effective if uneven effort.

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