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Reviews & Ratings for
Jacknife More at IMDbPro »

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

He's not my friend, he's just someone I know

Author: Boyo-2
10 July 2000

I cherish each and every frame of this beautiful movie. It is about regular people, people we all know, who suffer a little in their life and have some baggage to carry around. Just like all of us. Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker breathe life into their portrayals and are all excellent, but Harris is especially heartbreaking and therefore very real. You would swear he really is a trucker who drinks so he won't have to feel anything. Baker as his put-upon sister also has some delicate moments - when DeNiro gives her flowers in one scene, it seems like she was never given flowers before and probably wasn't. Very worthwhile.

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23 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Peerless acting from peerless actors.

Author: martincooper446 from United Kingdom
11 July 2006

Who votes in these ratings? "Jacknife" is a beautifully acted, brilliantly observed piece of work, with actors on top of their game, especially Ed Harris and the peerless Robert DeNiro(please don't mention Marlon Brando in the same breath of this man-see "Taxi Driver" for confirmation of this point). Is it a 'mundane' movie because it doesn't have sex/meaningless action/nudity in it. This movie is about the complexities of the characters involved. Ed Harris makes you feel every moment with him and his emotional outburst towards the end is heartbreaking. The part where he orders a young man in a bar to take off his army clothes is a wonderful observation of how fashion and the movies exploit tragic situations and how frustrated real men must feel to see a young upstart sporting military attire. While we are on this subject, "Casino" 7.8 out of 10? One of the greatest films of all time, from one of the greatest directors, starring THE greatest movie actor of all time, with the scariest film psychotic gangster ever, only warrants just above average? COME ON!!!!!

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

I'm sure you'll enjoy this tragic and tearful drama, which is topped off by a Grade-A cast and...

Author: mickeyboy86 from London, England
6 May 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What we have here is an ultimately powerful and thought-provoking drama about the healing process after War. The film fortunately doesn't get (too) preachy, yet it's let down a little in the first half by it's slightly slow pace. Usually, I'd be the first to compliment De Niro on an incredible central performance however, as good an actor as we all know him to be, De Niro is made second-rate here, due to the practically flawless co-lead performances of Harris and Baker. De Niro and Harris are Vietnam veterans who were very close during the struggle of the war and were a team with their best-friend, Bobby. Only De Niro and Harris returned from the battlefields and we discover that Bobby died when he went back into danger to save `Meggs' (De Niro) at the cost of his own life. Harris is a drunk and a wreck of a man, drinking all day and going to all night bars to get himself through the dark hours, both men are still (in some way) traumatized from the war. Harris lives with his Sister who he neglects and doesn't appreciate, even though she is the only one who feeds him and tidies up after him, etc. Out of nowhere, De Niro turns up on their doorstep and after much confusion and persuasion; De Niro takes Harris and his sister (Baker) fishing. From there, a romance starts between De Niro and Baker, much to Harris' anger and frustration, insisting that De Niro is `sick' and `a loser'.

The Director is brilliantly able to gain our sympathy for the 2 lead men at different points, at first we feel sorrow for Harris who is irritated by De Niro and really doesn't want to talk about the horrors he remembers from the war, it is this that De Niro is trying to get him to do, to be healed.

We later discover that Harris is shattered because he blames De Niro for Bobby's death, and that is why he has let his despair and anger damage and push away the people around him who care about him and love him: Meggs, his sister, etc.

Even if you find the pace a little slow to begin with, stick with it and I'm sure you'll enjoy this tragic and tearful drama, which is topped off by a Grade-A cast and a very heart-aching central plot outline that must mirror the lives of millions of soldiers across the globe when War breaks out.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

The Harsh Realities for Soldiers Coming Home

Author: gradyharp from United States
6 March 2007

JACKNIFE is a fine adaptation of Stephen Metcalfe's play 'Strange Snow' (the screenplay was also written by Metcalfe), sensitively directed by David Hugh Jones, that explores the too frequently forgotten effect of battle on veterans damaged permanently by the heinous cruelties of war. It is especially poignant to return to this 1989 film now as we watch the soldiers returning from the war in Iraq and the raw treatment they are receiving in our Veterans' Hospitals.

Three friends went off to the Vietnam War together and only two returned alive: the problem is that while both men suffered in battle the one David 'Highschool' Flannigan (Ed Harris) is so severely damaged by posttraumatic stress syndrome that he 'exists' in a drunken vacuum with his very plain schoolteacher sister Martha (Kathy Baker). As David deteriorates his buddy Joseph 'Jacknife' Megessey (Robert De Niro) returns to the town in an attempt to help his friend. In the course of events Jacknife at first offers succor to Martha and eventually the two date - at a Prom Martha must attend - and at that prom drunken David completely falls apart, destroying relics in the school and terrifying the townspeople and students. Jacknife makes Dave relive the moment in Vietnam when they lost their buddy and in doing so brings David to the point where he can begin his climb toward recovery. And the long-suffering Martha finds her needs tended by Jacknife, too.

All three actors give astonishingly fine performances: Ed Harris offers one of his most fully realized roles while De Niro and Baker maintain the high standards set by their careers. More people should help resurrect this all but forgotten film as it is a brittle reminder of the damages our wars bring to the men who fight them and to the families who receive them after battle's end. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

An emotional the video cover infers.

Author: Rhodes Gardner ( from Colorado, USA
25 February 1999

A good video selection of a movie, especially if you have not seen it before, ...if you can't find a New Release you'd like to look at. Robert De Niro, Kathy Baker, and Ed Harris supply a well rounded look of 'Healing'. Kathy Baker was just great as a supporting role.

I missed Viet Nam by one year, my draft number was high enough in the year that the severe de-escalation started. This is not a 'Platoon', or 'Full Metal Jacket'. This film is about a couple of Vets in the years' aftermath. Takes place back in the States, after the War is over. Very few flashbacks were done, but were neccessary to bring context to the film. Ed Harris plays the one person who is in the most pain, and is always on the edge of hurting others because of it. Kathy Baker plays his sister. Robert De Niro was just perfect for the part he played, as he comes into both their lives. It is not a perfect film, or screenplay; but the the actors pull it off. I believe Ed Harris was nominated for a certain award for his efforts (not Oscar, another kind).

You don't have to have been to Viet Nam to appreciate this movie. Though it is about the aftermath of Viet Nam experience, it can also be about Self. About how we have these opposites within ourself and how the best parts of ourself, even though they may be injured, try to reach out and save the most darkest part that we have. That movie describes what I just wrote and I could not avoid tears, myself, toward the movie's end. If you just stay with it; you may know or appreciate what I mean.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

wonderful and difficult

Author: pkositzky from United States
7 October 2005

I loved this movie. It is rare to get a glimpse of post-partum Vietnam, and this movie-sans combat scenes and exciting bombs and gunfire- did it. I had no idea I'd be so affected by it. What an amazing look at how alien Vets feel. It was tough to watch, quite frankly. We all understand the fighting and the Apocalypse Now type of drama, but this is so so different. What happens when they come back and try to live a life? They can't. It made me very aware of a large group of men that are rattling around lost in America. Not able to relate, can't sleep, can't have love affairs, can't deal with "normal society". They feel totally apart. This is a huge tragedy, and one that isn't addressed enough. Yeah, we've changed our attitude about Vietnam Vets, we like them now, but so what? It doesn't seem to have made any difference to them. It's too late? So it was a great film, but I cried a lot. I have no other criticisms.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Dave, Megs and Martha.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
18 April 2014

Jacknife is directed by David Jones and adapted to screenplay by Stephen Metcalfe from his own play Strange Snow. It stars Robert De Niro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. Music is by Bruce Broughton and cinematography by Brian West.

De Niro and Harris play two Vietnam War veterans trying to come to terms with their lives post the war. Things are further complicated when De Niro gets romantically involved with Harris sister played by Baker.

Wonderfully sedate and intimate, Jacknife, whilst not creating anything new in the "coming home from Nam" genre of film, is somewhat refreshing in how it relies on dialogue and believable character interactions. Some clichés do find their way into the play later in the day as Harris' character starts to come out of is troubled shell, but this is mostly a thoughtful treatment of loneliness and the on going effects of the war. The three up top performances are well delivered, with De Niro unsurprisingly carrying the film with ease.

A box office flop on release, there's a good chance that Jones' film came too late in the Vietnam War movie cycle. It's also safe to say that the slow pace and the dialogue heavy nature of it made it only appealing to a certain demographic of film lovers. It's worth seeking out now as an anti-dote to blunderbuss blockbusters, because it's good film making that has a story that is touching and often humorous, and for many of a certain era, it's all too real. 7/10

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Very Underrated film.

Author: pk-2
20 March 2007

Saw this on cable back in the early 90's and loved it. Never saw it again until it showed up on cable again recently. Still find it a great Vietnam movie. Not sure why its not higher rated. I found everything about this film compelling. As a vet (not from Vietnam) I can relate to the situations brought by both Harris and De Niro. I can only imagine this film being more poignant now with our situation in Iraq. I wish this would be offered on cable more often for people to see. The human toll on our soldiers isn't left on the battlefield. Its brought home for the rest of there lives. And this film is one of many that brings that home in a very hard way. Excellent film.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A very different kind of war movie.

Author: Michael DeZubiria ( from Luoyang, China
31 January 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jacknife is a war movie that is just about as far removed from the war as war movies get. It can hardly be classified as a war film, because the only way that any war has an effect on the story or the characters is in their memories of it, and even these we are hardly ever shown. It poses very interesting questions about life, especially in the way that the movie's tagline says that only one of them is really alive (and by the way, even though the tagline refers only to Dave (Ed Harris) and Megs (Robert DeNiro), it is talking about all three of the characters in the film). Dave and Megs were friends in the Vietnam war, and Megs has returned to take Dave out on a fishing trip that they have been planning for a lot longer than you might have guessed.

DeNiro provides a perfect performance of the character of Megs, who we are not really sure if we should like or if he really is as nuts as Martha thinks he is. Dave reminds Martha several times that Megs is not his friend, just someone he knows. There is a great scene early in the film where Megs has gone out to grab a six pack of beer from his car for breakfast, and he is just around the corner of the room when Dave says this. Megs pauses for a moment and then proceeds into the room with a smile and a huge greeting. It isn't until later that you realize how Megs must have felt when he heard that, having been the one to remember what they had planned to do on this day. It reminds me of the fakeness of the old, `Sure, let's do that,' thing that people so often say to each other, never having any plans to do any such thing.

Ed Harris delivers a wonderful performance as Dave, who never got over the effects that the war had on him. Even so many years later he has not managed to get over the death of a friend during the war, blaming himself to this day for it and thus drowning his life in alcohol, cigarettes, and loneliness. All he wants, he says, is for people to leave him alone. This is not a man who is living his life the way he wants, whether people actually leave him alone or not, he is a man trying to forget that he's alive, to detach himself from the world of the living as much as possible.

His sister Martha reminds me of myself, at least in terms of my roommates. I have two roommates who are 21 and 24 years old, and both act like they still live with their mothers, expecting their messes to just go away when they leave the room for a while. One on particular (the older one, sadly enough), has absolutely no clue how to care for himself, I'm surprised I don't have to wipe his chin while he eats. Martha has to do much the same for her brother, who she waits on hand and foot while he staggers through life from one hangover to the next. Martha and Dave are stuck in a stagnant life and neither of them can get out of it until something major changes, and Dave is the one that needs to do the changing.

I tend to complain about romance in movies where it just doesn't belong about as much as Roger Ebert complains about those pathetic little tension devices, the red digital readout. But in this case, I don't think that the romance that develops between Megs and Martha had any adverse affect on the rest of the movie. On the contrary, it made it that much more interesting, because it was not predictable. The problem with the romantic subplots in Bruckheimer movies and whatnot is that they are so predictable that you just wait for the obvious end to come and hope that something interesting happens along the way. In this case, however, it's not as obvious that something is going to happen between Megs and Martha because we don't know enough about Megs. Martha could be right about him, that he's one of Dave's crazy war buddies and that he's not the kind of man that she should be dating. Dave certainly encourages this idea.

(spoilers) A couple years after this movie, DeNiro did Cape Fear, where he plays a deranged criminal out for revenge against the lawyer that landed him in prison, a character that, in retrospect, makes it pretty easy to think that maybe at the end of Jacknife Martha realizes her mistake, gets rid of Megs, and she and Dave make up because he saved her from a horrible relationship and then he decides to clean up his act because he has done something good for her. I was half expecting this to happen, so I was pleasantly surprised when Martha and Megs wound up together and even more pleasantly surprised when Megs asks Dave all the questions about what they had planned to do after the war was over.

At times this is a slow moving drama, but Jacknife is entertaining along the way and has a huge payoff at the end, which amazingly manages to be sappy without being cheesy. There is an almost excess of emotion at the end of the film that scarcely fits with the rest of the movie, but it is so good that it doesn't dumb down anything that the movie has accomplished up to that point. Everyone involved gives a wonderful performance, and it is one of those rare films that just about makes you want to stand up and shake your fists victoriously in the air.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

modest drama carried by a strong cast

Author: Michael Neumann from United States
28 November 2010

This entry in a small series of post-Vietnam War readjustment melodramas doesn't, unfortunately, measure up to its potential. Three notable actors do what they can with material perhaps better suited to the less demanding standards of television; De Niro, in particular, exhibits his usual flair as the extroverted, nicknamed title character, who attempts to help shell-shocked fellow veteran Ed Harris out of his depression while falling in love with his friend's lonely wallflower sister (a thankless role for Kathy Baker). Director David Jones contributes little to Stephen Metcalfe's stage play except a few gratuitous combat flashbacks, which add nothing but noise to what should have been a subtle, low-key character study. Such genuine and well-meant sympathy for homecoming soldiers is certainly not out of place, but the sometimes over-earnest treatment doesn't do them any favors.

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