The Crossing Guard

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The Crossing Guard
Jack Nicholson standing in profile against a black background
Promotional film poster
Directed by Sean Penn
Produced by Sean Penn
David S. Hamburger
Written by Sean Penn
Starring Jack Nicholson
David Morse
Robin Wright
Anjelica Huston
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Jay Cassidy
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release dates
  • November 16, 1995 (1995-11-16)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million
Box office $868,979

The Crossing Guard is a 1995 independent thriller directed and written by American actor Sean Penn. It stars Jack Nicholson, David Morse, Robin Wright, and Anjelica Huston.


Freddy Gale (Nicholson) has been tormented for five years after the death of his daughter Emily. Once a devoted husband and father, his anguish costs him his family, happiness, and morality. Now the drunk driver who killed her, John Booth (Morse), is released from prison. Freddy immediately reveals to his ex-wife Mary (Huston) his plot to kill him in revenge for taking his daughter and life away from him.

John Booth is now living in a trailer outside of his parents' house and merely plans to go on with his life, despite the fact that he is forever haunted and changed after killing Emily Gale. At night Freddy arrives at the Booth residence, armed with a pistol. He clumsily breaks into the trailer trying to shoot, but he forgot to load a magazine. John calmly tells him he won't call the police and will let Freddy kill him, but asks for some time to savor his freedom. Freddy is enraged but he accepts and gives John three days to live.

John tries to live his life as best as he can before the third day arrives. He meets an artist named JoJo (Wright Penn) at a friend's party and he has a brief romance with her before she realizes that he can't let go of the mistake he made. He reveals to her that when he hit Emily Gale, he came to her side as she was dying and she apologised to him for "not having looked both ways".

Freddy is now even worse off than he was before, he drinks excessively and starts sleeping with more prostitutes than usual. He even gets up in the middle of the night and goes to a club to find a hired dancer. Everyone around him, even a prostitute who truly cares for him, is shut out due to his lust for vengeance.

Near the end of the film, it is the third day where Freddy will kill John. Freddy calls Mary and breaks down in tears as he tells her of a terrible nightmare he had. In the nightmare, he is driving by his daughter's school and stops at a crosswalk where children (including a living Emily Gale) wait. He sees that John Booth is the crossing guard. Freddy then sees himself run over all of the children, even Emily. They meet at a diner where they both talk about the past, how Freddy used to be a strong man until Emily was killed and how they made a good husband and wife. Though when Mary tells him he is beyond help, he angrily curses her. After Mary leaves, Freddy drunkenly starts to drive to John's house. John awaits in his trailer preparing himself, he stands waiting and applauding Freddy's imminent arrival. Freddy is however pulled over by the police; after a series of tests that he passes they begin to arrest him for drunk driving anyway. Freddy however grabs his gun and runs away. He breaks into a home and hides in a little girl's room. The girl guides the police away, Freddy sees his daughter in her and tells her goodnight.

Freddy arrives at John's trailer and waits before he enters. John abruptly jumps from a corner with a rifle in hand. Freddy tells him since he is on the run, on his property, and armed, John should be able to get away with killing him. There is a standoff as they point guns at each other. John however drops his gun and runs away; Freddy follows him. After a lengthy chase across the city, Freddy catches John climbing a fence and fires at him. For a moment it looks as if John is dead, but he was only grazed and continues on. Even though he has had enough, Freddy follows him, until he realizes that John has led him to a graveyard and to Emily's grave. Freddy had never had the courage to visit his daughter's grave and John couldn't visit earlier when he saw Mary there. John talks silently to the grave and finally says "Your daddy's coming". Freddy gives John the gun and cries over the grave apologizing to his daughter. Freddy and John reconcile as the sun rises.


Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally positive reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reporting a score of 75% based on 28 reviews, and giving it a certification of "fresh".[1]


Anjelica Huston's performance in the film was praised and she received nominations for Best Supporting Actress from the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). She lost out on the Golden Globe to Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite and the SAG award to Kate Winslet for Sense and Sensibility.


  1. ^ Rotten Tomatoes The Crossing Guard entry, Retrieved on 2009-10-03.

External links[edit]