The Crossing Guard (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

Sean Penn and Kevin Smith. Two men in search of each other.

The movie "The Crossing Guard" was written and directed by Sean Penn. I believe he is already a first rate director, and has the potential to be one of the best ever, since he is still young and inexperienced in director's years. He really has a natural gift for knowing how to compose a shot, when to do a long shot, when to zoom in and catch the reactions of the actors. I've always thought he was a fine actor, and he uses his knowledge of the craft to let others do what they can do best. Several actors in this movie (John Savage and David Morse, in addition to Nicholson and Huston) deliver performances that really cut close to the bone.

The only thing that kept director Sean Penn from the very summit in "The Crossing Guard" was author Sean Penn.

As a writer, he has no concept of what is or isn't believable, he writes dialogue that sounds like speeches rather than people talking, and he can't seem to sort out what isn't essential to the story. To give the most obvious example of a credibility problem -  in a great expanse of city where one man chases down another, where the father of a little girl killed by a drunk driver tries to kill the driver five years after the incident, guess where the chase takes them? After starting in a trailer, running through the streets, taking a random ride on the first bus that appears, running through some more streets, and some grassy areas, the pursued runs out of breath and falls. When he moves his shoulder away slowly and dramatically, we see that he has fallen on the grave of the little girl he killed. You believe that plot device? I sure didn't. That's just one example. I could cite more, but you get the idea.

On a related topic, I saw another writer-director in action the same day I saw The Crossing Guard. I watched Kevin Smith's Dogma. It seems to me that he has the opposite problem from Penn. He is a truly interesting and gifted comic writer - his long thoughtful comic monologues and philosophical repartee remind me of the great Irish playwrights like Shaw and Wilde. But this guy ain't got a clue on the visual side. His movies still look like they were shot in someone's basement, even though Dogma is his fifth movie. "Clerks" was inept, but charmingly inept. The charm is starting to dissipate. Kevin should promote himself to producer, and hire Sean Penn to direct.

Actually, that's not a serious idea. Their styles don't mesh at all, but I do wonder if Penn, Mr Intensity, Mr Wound-too-fucking-tight, could still do comedy. T'was a time when he was one of the best.


Breasts and buns from Pricella Barnes and Kari Wuhrer

Tuna's comments in yellow:

When Nicholson's seven year old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Nicholson pretty much fell apart, and his marriage to Anjelica Huston ended. His days are spent running his jewelry store, and his nights are spent in a strip club, getting wasted. He is living for the day when the drunk driver, David Morse, gets out of jail, so he can shoot him.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen letterbox

  • cast and crew commentary

The film paints a great portrait of how Nicholson and Huston deal with the death of their child, and shows great insight into how Morse must also deal with what he has done. Near the end, there is a great moment of irony, when Nicholson is stopped for drunk driving.

Nicholson was a little over the top, and the film seem a little long for what it covered, but Huston was nominated for a Golden Globe, and deservedly so.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed less than a million dollars in the USA.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "this is a C-. While I found it interesting, my interest had more to do with the themes than the actual film." Scoop echoes the C-.

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