jack nicholson tribute: THE CROSSING GUARD (1995)

Freddy Gale in The Crossing Guard (1995)

All right, so in theory, this movie had everything going for it: it stars my favorite actor, it’s written and directed by one of my other favorite actors (Sean Penn), and it featured one of the most underused actresses in Hollywood in a Golden Globe-nominated performance (Anjelica Huston). Unfortunately, the biggest thing plaguing The Crossing Guard — other than the strange slo-mo pans and the awkwardly saxophone-heavy score — was its total genre confusion. At some points sleazy comedy, some points action thriller, and some points torn-apart family drama, I wasn’t quite sure what I was to be thinking as this movie unfolded.
And the ultimate in disappointment, the performances were not that impressive. Huston had a few scenes bordering on excellence, but she simply was not in enough of the movie. The film fell on the shoulders of its leads, Jack — playing the vengeful father of a daughter killed by a drunk driver — and David Morse — the recently released inmate who caused the accident. Though Jack’s performance is particularly sensitive and emotional in some scenes, the film bogs down during Morse’s scenes. He’s ultimately one-note in his portrayal of the ex-con, and his semi-romance with Robin Wright is weirdly forced.
So though Penn’s directorial efforts were much more suited to Into the Wild, where the performances were much more obviously great (Emile Hirsch, Hal Holbrook), one feat he did achieve from Mr. Nicholson was very clear in at least two scenes: he made the man cry. Yes, seeing pain and anguish in Freddy’s face was the most surprising and satisfying thing about the movie. Jack ditched the snide smirking for raw emotion.

Jack’s Performance: B-
The Film: C-

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