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The Jackal

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Jackal

Starring: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Rated: R
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Action, Suspense


*Also starring: Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Mathilda May, Jack Black, Larry King



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Harvey Karten review follows ---
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

John Wilkes Booth, Sirhan Sirhan, Gavrilo Princip, James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald--all succeeded in assassinating their political targets. But all were caught and punished. In the movie, "The Jackal," IRA terrorist Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere), responsible for the death of several British subjects, was likewise caught and imprisoned. Only the Jackal (Bruce Willis) has succeeded in removing his marks from the scene and getting away with it, the only thing held behind bars being the millions upon millions of dollars he has accumulated from the wealthy men who have given him assignments. Though he could have retired to the tennis courts and golf courses long ago, he is a professional killer who gains great delight in doing his job. When he is given $35 million in advance of a killing with the promise of another $35 mil after the deed is done, he could easily have taken the money and run. But the Jackal, like the animal for whom he is named, derives as much pleasure from the hunt as from the kill.

Based loosely on Fred Zinnemann's 1973 British-French thriller "The Day of the Jackal"--about the intricate plan to assassinate French leader Charles De Gaulle on the Champs Elysees--Michael Caton-Jones's film plays by the numbers. Annoyingly enough, it recycles the age-old flaw of so many murder plots: when the villain gets the drop on the pursuers, he could easily go away the winner, but takes so much time meditating on the imminent murder he is himself deleted. Despite its formulaic format and absence of witty dialogue "The Jackal" has some things going for it, notably the weapon which the title character uses to execute his target and the disguises he assumes to get into the United States and work his way to the victim's zone.

The story opens in Moscow where a group of Russian militia together with agents from the American FBI raid a night club and kill a Mafia chieftain who, in a most uncool manner curses out the officials before his public. Determined to get revenge on the United States for its part in the slaying of this gangster, his brother hires the Jackal (Bruce Willis) to take out a prominent target in the U.S.--$35 million before, an equal amount after the execution. Director Michael Caton- Jones has quite a bit of fun dressing Willis up in an assortment of wigs and mustaches, all designed to ease his way into the U.S. and manipulate his victims. In some scenes Willis is unrecognizable with thick mustache, five-day growth of beard and long hair, in others he is his usual handsome self though he switches from gray hair to light brown to dark coloring. Caton-Jones has much less fun with the good guy, Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere), an IRA terrorist being held in a maximum security prison, who is offered the chance for either a pardon or a transfer to a country-club jail if he will assist the FBI in tracking down the Jackal. Gere goes through the motions mechanically, holding on to his Irish brogue throughout the movie, but otherwise coming across as a colorless individual who never shows the passion he should about gaining revenge on the criminal who at one time shot his girl friend, killing her fetus.

"The Jackal" from time to time draws on the 007 genre, apparently filmed in Moscow, London, Montreal, and Washington, highlighting the killer's intricate strategy in sneaking into the U.S.--by flying to Montreal with a false Canadian passport, buying an expensive boat, and sailing as part of the Mackinaw-Chicago race. Equally amusing is his purchase of a super gun which can shoot several rounds per second and discharge minor missiles as well. At one point he coats the back of his van with a deadly poison, which, when touched by one of his enemies, causes the man's gruesome and violent death.

Diane Venora plays the most captivating character, a rough-tough Moscow agent with pronounced facial scars who, if not mercifully shot in this movie would surely have been done in by lung cancer. When she is not huffing and puffing on a cigarette she is busy lighting another. You wonder how much the tobacco industry contributed to the making of this movie: why else provide the mostly young audience with such a chain-smoking role model?

For all we know, weapons such as the one used by the Jackal exist today, but they are most likely in the hands of the governments of the great powers than in those of an individual. Willis gets to send out a great deal of firepower by simply tapping a few keys on his laptop, giving new meaning to those ads in Tuesday's New York Times for ever-more- powerful computers.

Copyright 1997 Harvey Karten

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