A veteran police detective, on the day of his retirement, handles the case of a seven-year-old girl who has been brutally murdered. When a mentally retarded man confesses to the murder and then kills himself, the detectives consider the case closed, but was he actually the murderer?
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Penn's handling of the murderer's identity made a profound impression on me, as I happen to share that view of life, that philosophy one might say; and Jack Nicholson's beautiful empty can performance feels like a piledriver once the film ends. Very, very impressed by this film.
Pretty standard direction from Penn, but it works because he gets out of the way and lets the unnerving, suspenseful story unfold without any interference. What Penn and co. do accomplish very well is making the last 40 minutes or so incredibly suspenseful, with an impending doom lurking behind every action and character entrance. Very good.
There are flaws here, but they're are completely overpowered by the film's strengths. I saw it for the first time months ago, but I can still recall the power of the experience. This is perhaps the final great performance of Nicholson's career but his achievement is just one in a series. A haunting film.
Penn has come off as pretentious in the past but not here. The story developes perfectly, going between powerful acting, unique camera work, and somber soundtrack with ease. Nicholson is exquisite. Multi layered plot keeps you on your toes but doesn't bog you down with unnecessary info.