Counting down to the Netflix release of Evan Katz's adaptation of Dave Zeltserman's Small Crimes I'm looking at some of my favorite in the man-out-of-prison subgenre. Today it's Sean Penn's The Crossing Guard.
The twist this time is that the focus is at least as much on the victim of the original crime as on the ex-con who committed it. Jack Nicholson is a man whose young daughter was killed by a drunk driver years earlier and has, in the meantime, lost his marriage, become a full-blown alcoholic and sustained himself on one idea - killing the man who killed his daughter. He has a plan, he has a date when the con will be released and he only has to keep himself alive long enough to execute it.
David Morse plays the ex-con who has lived the several years consumed with remorse and is released from prison a broken man very much sympathetic to his potential killer's cause. On vengeance night Nicholson is so drunk he screws it up, but Morse tells him no problem I'll wait for you. Come back in three days and do it then.
The next three days we spend examining the lives of both men, both broken by the same event, both unable to move on, unable to sustain their relationships with other people because of the tragedy and both angry that the world seems to have moved on and from the historical point theirs seem to have stopped at.
Solid supporting turns cast fronted by Robin Wright and Angelica Huston and featuring Piper Laurie, John Savage, Priscilla Barnes, Joe Viterelli, Ryo Ishibashi, Kari Wuhrer and, heh, Robbie Robertson.
Sad? Pretty fuckin emotionally brutal, but manages to be beautiful rather than depressing. Terrific examination of grief and guilt in the sophomore directorial outing from Penn (whose equally great debut, The Indian Runner, also starred Morse and was produced by Stephen K. Bannon - yeah, that Steve Bannon - go the fuck figure).