The Crossing Guard


The Crossing Guard

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 28


Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,490
User image

Watch it now

The Crossing Guard Photos

Movie Info

Sean Penn wrote and directed this tale of loss, guilt, and revenge. The daughter of Freddy and Mary Gale (Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston) was killed by a drunk driver, John Booth (David Morse). The death of their child took a heavy toll on the Gales; their marriage broke up, and, while Mary has remarried and attempted to put her life back together, Freddy has become an embittered alcoholic, seething with directionless rage and searching for a purpose in life. Freddy intends to kill Booth as soon as he's released from prison, as he believes that jail was not a severe enough punishment for his daughter's death. But Freddy discovers that Booth is still wracked with guilt for his crime and can barely live with himself. He tells Booth that he has three days left to live; Booth tries to find solace in the arms of artist Jojo (Robin Wright), while Freddy continues to wallow in alcohol and self-pity at a strip club. The Crossing Guard also features an original song by Bruce Springsteen; Penn's previous directorial outing, The Indian Runner, was loosely based on a Springsteen song from his album Nebraska.


Critic Reviews for The Crossing Guard

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (7)

Audience Reviews for The Crossing Guard

  • Jan 23, 2016
    Kind of a mixed bag when it comes to this movie, honestly. While I do think Sean Penn had a handle on mood and how to just let actors be actors, I just don't think that he had as much of a handle on storytelling as he might have believed. This, of course, can all be excused by the fact that, I believe, this was Sean Penn's first feature film as a director. I just don't think the film ever really comes together as well as it should as it relates to narrative, even though it does feature excellent performances from Jack Nicholson, David Morse and Anjelica Huston. I think the approach of telling the story from both sides, from Freddy's inability to properly grieve from his daughter's death at the hand of a drunk driver and John's guilt in having killed a little girl due to his irresponsibility, is a really smart choice. I'm not saying that John's guilt of killing this girl is greater than Freddy's grief, but I think it was very important for the film to also show John's side, just to show that he is, in fact, a human with very serious guilt issues about what he did and that's he's not a monster. So the film, essentially, deals with Freddy's and John's own separate journeys for acceptance, love, what have you in the days leading up to when Freddy plans to kill John. The problem in Freddy's side of the film is that his grieving process is pretty much exactly what you'd expect, he drinks away his sorrows, has sex with strippers half his age. I'm not saying that it wasn't interesting, I'm just saying that it's what you expect so, therefore, it isn't really as satisfying as it might be. The best part of Freddy's moments are when he interacts with his now ex-wife, in Anjelica Huston. These are the scenes that are a little more thoughtful and explores how a seemingly great couple can disintegrate after such a horrific experience. Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston are great here and, really, these are some of the best scenes of the film. Jack's scenes with David Morse are also a highlight. Though, to be fair, they only have a couple of them. John's half of the film is a little more interesting than Freddy's but I think that, again, they go the route that is expected instead of throwing in a curveball. I will admit that the last several minutes of the film are very poignant and well-done. It's just that the rest of the film doesn't come together that well, even though the elements are there. This still ends up being a good movie, but one that you would think would be better given the quality of acting that is involved. I don't think there's anything that you really need to see here in terms of narrative, but if you want to see great acting then this is highly recommended, can't really recommend it for anything else.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Aug 07, 2012
    John Booth: Would you maybe, ya know, would you take a couple days, and maybe think about not taking my life?  "Some lives cross, others collide." The Crossing Guard is far from a great movie, but it still has its moments of power. This is easily my least favorite Sean Penn directed movie, but the other three I've seen from him were all very good. The story here isn't very original, nor are the characters or anything the characters say. If I was struck by anything while watching this film it was how cardboard cutout everything seemed.  Freddy is a divorced, alcoholic jeweler who has never been able to get over the death of his daughter Emily. Emily was killed by a drunk driver years earlier and Freddy and his then wife Mary end up separating not too long afterwards. Freddy and Mary had two boys together too, but Freddy hasn't been around them much, especially since Mary had gotten a new husband. When the drunk driver is released from prison, Freddy goes to him and tells him he has three years to live. We learn through events that John Booth(the drunk driver) is not a bad guy, and that he is very sorry for what he did. After watching the film for an hour, you'll actually like John and hate Freddy.  The performances were so-so. Jack Nicholson has been much, much better, but he isn't bad. I expected a lot more from him, and this movie, based off of Penn and Nicholson's other work, The Pledge, which was a masterpiece. David Morse is also just okay as John Booth. The women probably give the best performances in the film; those being Anjelica Huston and Robin Wright. Obviously when you see Sean Penn's name and Jack Nicholson's name, expectations are going to be high. This isn't at all a terrible movie, but it is more bland then you would like. There's a few scenes that make the movie worth watching, but I wouldn't ever say this a must see film. In fact, if you're going to skip any of Sean Penn's directorial outings, make it this one. Overall, I was disappointed with this film as a whole. It could have and should have been so much better.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 18, 2011
    The Crossing Guard is a drama that flirts with misery porn, but overcomes it with a powerful and authentic performance by Jack Nicholson. While it's not always clear what Sean Penn, the director, is trying to convey, he succeeds in offering a complex revenge/family drama. The ending, to be sure, didn't fit the story, but enough is right (especially Nicholson and Morse) to make it worth a watch, especially for Sean Penn fans.
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 25, 2010
    Moody, dark, but very enlightening and touching in the end. Jack Nicholson gave a very emotionally detached and vulnerable performance, far from majority of the characters he always play. David Morse was also good, and so was Anjelica Huston and Robin Wright Penn, but the film overall was just okay, but still a worthy directorial effort by Sean Penn.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer

The Crossing Guard Quotes

News & Features