The Jackal (1997)

THE JACKAL is a high-tech, low-believability thriller, starring 
Bruce Willis as the title character, an expert assassin and master 
of many disguises, who's contracted by a Russian mob boss for a hit 
on the head of the F.B.I.  One of the few who can actually identify 
the Big J. is a former I.R.A. operative (Richard Gere), imprisoned 
in the U.S. and ready to cut a deal if it means a chance to get out 
and about and maybe escape, or see his old girlfriend (Steven Tyler 
lookalike Mathilda May), or, hell, just be awarded a transfer to a 
minimum-security prison.  So, the guy with the good looks and gig-
gle-inducing accent is paired with a pair of agents, one from Wash-
ington (Sidney Poiter) and the other from Moscow (Diane Venora).  
And a-travellin' they go, trotting the continent for clues, while 
their target gets ever-closer to his quarry.

As a loose and largely unremarkable remake of THE DAY OF THE JACK-
AL, the film has a few things going for it.  Let's see...  several 
of the action sequences are legitimate pulse-pounders, even if they 
rarely serve the story well.  The scenery and spacious sets are 
also quite eye-catching.  (However dumb the story becomes, you *do* 
feel like you're going places:  Moscow, Helsinki, London, Montreal, 
and, in one head-scratching shot of Willis aboard an Outer Banks 
ferry, a trip from Chicago to the suburbs of D.C. by way of More-
head City!)  And then there's Bruce, the coolest cat on the block 
and the only guy in the movie who has a pair.  (Gere looks good and 
that's about it.  Poitier brings grace, but not enough weight.  On-
ly Ms. Venora displays the requisite intensity required of their 

On the suck side, the finale runs long, the plot has too many 
holes, and the tone, at times, skirts dangerously close to camp.  
(The high low point?  I gotta go with Bad Death Scene #1.  You may 
need to leave the theater for that one.)  And, let's see, some of 
the effects are weak, such as a blue-screen bit set in a subway 
tunnel.  (But doesn't Gere grimace convincingly?)  Oh, and, Heaven 
help us, there's even a stranger-in-the-house sequence-- the same 
scene I swear saw in SWITCHBACK, KISS THE GIRLS, and I KNOW WHAT 
YOU DID LAST SUMMER.  Sigh.  Well, at least Willis' disguises are 
fun.  His portly Canuck is a sight, eh?, but be back from the bath-
room before Bruce hits a gay bar as a frisky swinger.  Even if it 
(and its follow-up scene) fails to amuse, at least you'll know what 
they're talking about, when the inevitable outrage erupts.  Direct-
ed by Michael Caton-Jones (ROB ROY).  (Rated "R"/122 min.)

Grade: B- 

Copyright 1997 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Doglike Carnivorous Mammal

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