the fresh films reviews

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The Crossing Guard (1995)

Sean Penn



The Crossing Guard

111 minutes

David S. Hamburger
Sean Penn
Sean Penn

Cast includes:

Freddy Gale Jack Nicholson
John Booth David Morse
Mary Anjelica Huston
Jojo Robin Wright
Helen Booth Piper Laurie -
Stuart Booth Richard Bradford -
Bobby John Savage -



Sean Penn tried to tackle serious issues of grief and guilt with as much empathy and feeling as he could in this slow-moving, well-built character drama starring an impressive foursome of Jack Nicholson, David Morse, Anjelica Huston and Robin Wright. The film was made a year before Penn starred in Tim Robbins' Dead Man Walking, and there are clear parallels between the two movies, especially Penn's noble attempt at humanizing convicts and make us understand the sometimes minute, almost indistinguishable differences between ending up as a felon or a bereaved. At its best, The Crossing Guard is close to the level of Robbins' film regarding this; Penn invites us under the skin of his two in many ways contrasting lead characters. Unfortunately, the film hasn't aged all that well. Penn's extensive use of slow-motion and mood segments come off as overstated, almost bloated. They are atmospheric, but they also give the film a self-awareness that at times detracts from the drama.

That being said, there are some very strong scenes in The Crossing Guard, most of them involving an understated, empathetic David Morse. After his breakthrough with Inside Moves in 1980, Morse has had a rather low-key career, often appearing in indie pictures. He still has the quality to lift a film like this. The same can sometimes be said about Jack Nicholson, but his performance here is uneven. Somewhat surprisingly, he is at his best when he looks jaded and is less forceful. In a few of the more explosive segments, he doesn't quite find the right note and his permance becomes too large and flashy for the film's otherwise subdued tone.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 12.11.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 01.09.1999 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang