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I entered the theater with fond memories of Fred Zinnemann's 1973 "Day of
the Jackal", expecting a chance to scoff at a butchered remake of a fine,
suspenseful and tensely-paced film. After the first half-hour or so, it
suddenly occurred to me that what I was seeing was not a remake at all, but
a parody. Then I began to enjoy myself.
Watching to see what modern filmmaking sensibilities had made of the more memorable scenes from the original kept me thoroughly entertained for the rest of the show. Edward Fox's neat little sniper's rifle--with its disguise constructed from a marvelous, high-tech material called "stainless steel"--metamorphosed into an immense carbon-fiber contraption suitable for demolishing an armored battalion. Fox's deadly silent assassination of a cantaloupe turned into a market-garden recreation of the Battle of the Bulge. And so on.
I don't think my companion, or anyone else in the theater, appreciated my snickers and occasional belly laugh. Too bad. I had a great time.
In retaliation for the FBI war against the mob in Russian, the mob pay
famous assassin Carlos the Jackal to kill a senior figure in the US
government. FBI deputy director Preston discovers that the Jackal has been
contracted out he contacts one of the few men who can identify him - IRA
gunman Declan Mulqueen. With the Jackal moving freely within the US it is a
race against time to find and stop him before he reaches his
Before he died, the director of "The Day of the Jackal", Zinnermann approached Universal to have the name changed so that it wouldn't be so closely associated with his own film. They didn't change it and it's easy to see what his point was. The plot of this is a bit silly and doesn't have any intelligence or subtlety. The Jackal is careful is some scenes but takes on FBI agents in others, he covers all his tracks in designing his gun, but he kills the builder and leaves the plans for the FBI to find! It doesn't totally make sense - things are tidied up too easily - Mulqueen finds the Jackal too easily when the film needs a boost of action.
Willis is OK as the Jackal but he's not totally convincing because he usually plays roles where he runs round shooting, rather than being a very clinical hitman who only fires one shot then leaves undetected. Even here he does some planning but he only looks comfortable when in running gun battles. Gere is good in an action man role (I'm not a big fan), but he has one of the worst Northern Irish accents even put on the big screen - it goes from N.Ireland to Southern Ireland and back again from one scene to the next. Poitier is a classy inclusion in the pack but doesn't have much to do but act tough beside Gere. Support is interesting, but they don't have much to do - Jack Black was great in High Fidelity, but is cannon fodder here. J.K. Simmons is amazing in Oz but is just an agent here. Venora is good despite a very heavy accent. Sophie Okonedo is beautiful as she was in various British TV series but only has a few fleeting lines of dialogue. And Leslie Phillips is wasted in such a small cameo of little significance that you wonder why he bothered.
The whole plot sits funny with me - I really don't understand why Gere's character had to be an IRA murderer. There's an early scene where he's verbally attacked by one of the FBI for killing women and children, but he's given time to defend himself. After that we all forget who he is and everyone loves him. The final act of the film left a bitter taste in my mouth (I grew up in NI), and you can't help but wonder who in America wants to promote the IRA as somehow honourable or sympathetic (also see "The Devil's Own") - I wonder if Hollywood understands now how offending it is to see terrorists displayed in this way?
Overall, it's quite fun in a brash, loud sort of way - but ultimately it'll leave you wondering what you just watched and "how did that happen" and "hang on that bit doesn't work". As a distracting blockbuster it's quite good but as a relative of 1973's "Day of the Jackal" it's an illegitimate third cousin.
You can't really approach this as a remake of the classic 'The Day of
The Jackal.' Though broadly similar, the entire feel of the two films
is incomparable. And suspense thrillers are all about "the feel" aren't
The story is pretty standard fair - a super villain assassin (Willis) is going to make a big kill using a huge weapon and leaving a trail of bodies along the way. Gere, an IRA soldier (jailed for "terrorism") is brought on as consultant because he is one of the few people who has seen 'the Jackal", and given a few vague promises in exchange for his help. As it turns out, Gere has more than just knowledge - he has a vendetta. Poitier oversees Gere and the investigation of Willis, and comes to realize that Gere is the only hope of stopping him.
I like Sidney Poitier, Bruce Willis and Richard Gere, so I was predisposed to like this film. I was neither very surprised nor disappointed. The Jackal is entertaining and the performances are strong. Poitier is always a class act, and Willis and Gere have terrific anti-chemistry. There's nothing wrong with the cinematography or directing, and the pace of the film, though a little breathless, is fine. Regardless, the story-line never reached much beyond the ordinary thriller fare. Making a truly great thriller requires either doing something really original (very hard to do) or using a truly inspired script. This film's script is decent, but the story line could have used a little more careful thought and a bit more complexity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roll up! Roll up! It's Big Gay Bruce and his Big Gay Death Cannon!
Plausible plot? Unnecessary! Decent acting? Unnecessary! Respect shown
to its mighty progenitor? Unnecessary! Yes it's another offensively
stuffed turkey in the Butch Bruce canon.
I mean where do you start with this film? Okay, let's begin with the woeful misapprehension people might have that this was, in some way, related to either the book or the original film, The Day of the Jackal. It's not. In fact it's so different (and so bad) that Fredrick Forsyth asked to have his name taken off it. Now I'm not necessarily a stuffy Brit who can't hack Hollywood remaking British films. Well, okay, maybe I am a bit like that, but fortunately it's a redundant point in this case. This film is so different to the original that the name and the odd reference are the only things that survive.
Now let's move to the premise. Cheesy Russian gangster gets killed in a Moscow police raid (somehow involving the FBI although no one bothers to explain why). In revenge, brother of gangster decides to wreak vengeance by killing the wife of the US President (although again no one bothers to explain why this is a good move although to be fair it was pre-9-11, so he wasn't to know it would have resulted in the US airforce carpet bombing Eastern Europe). Gangster hires "nasty" killer (Willis). Police hire "cuddly" killer (Gere), "cuddly" killer tracks "nasty" killer. Police fanny around and periodically get killed. "Cuddly" killer kills "nasty" killer. First lady is saved and we all realise that the IRA are just this bunch of real sweet guys y'know, who just happen to want to kill innocent people. Nice.
Let's put to one side the distasteful Hollywood habit of playing in the troubles of Northern Ireland like it was a sandpit in a theme park (I deal with this point more extensively on the message boards). If Hollywood directors want to cast the Belfast butchers as hookers with hearts of gold, that's up to them. I, of course, reserve the right to despise them for it. It's a free country.
More egregious, however, is the fact that the film manages to patronise and insult the Irish while trying to support them. That's not politically distasteful, it's far worse: it's incompetent. It's no wonder, for instance, that Gere still looks so damn good, given that he slept through the entire six months it took to make this piece of cra*p. The fact that Gere's accent is not only Southern Irish, but an appalling parody of Southern Irish shows that the filmmakers weren't looking much beyond America to make money from this film. Then there is that lovely scene at the end where Sidney Poitier (a complete waste of space in this film) says he's off for a coffee, offers to get our "cuddly" IRA man one, then casually says "Ah, but then you guys drink Guinness don't you". Yeah that's right Sidney; the Irish live on Guinness and potatoes.
While we're on the subject of Poitier: why? In the original film the detective is the tracker. In Jackal, Gere is the tracker. So what does Poitier do? Well, he just hangs around and looks like a tw*at of course. He's got absolutely nothing to do apart from call in the marines at the end, and he only does this because the nice IRA man tells him to.
While we're on the subject of Gere: why? I suppose it's only a matter of time before Hollywood remakes Gandhi with Vin Diesel playing ex-Mujahideen Commando Mahatma Gandhi beheading his way through 1940s and 50s India (he is, after all, a bit dark of hue and therefore very likely to be a Muslim fundamentalist). Let's not forget that Gere's character is a killer and therefore a nasty piece of work. And if he's not, why does he know The Jackal? If he's not, why does he know all his moves? And if he is, why is he such a limp biscuit and such a "loveable" person?
All this goes to show that the makers of this film couldn't be bothered to (a) think about the plot (b) have the characters making decisions that were in keeping with their character(c) avoid cheesy stereotypes like having the big boss bad guy kill his own friend I honestly thought this had turned into a Bond movie (d) give the "central" characters something to do (e) credit the audience with a modicum of intelligence.
This film is an insult to the British and Irish killed at the hands of terrorists, it's an insult to the Irish people, it's an insult to not great, but pretty good film it rips off, and an insult to the intelligence. But most of all and most unforgivable it is an insult to my a*rse for having to sit through the over two hours of run time it took to finish. Honestly, you'd think with no plot, no characters and no dialogue, it would be over in no time. But they didn't even have the decency to quit early.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although The Jackal is one of my favorite films, due to the fine acting
of all the principal players (especially Diane Venora), and good
direction of the action scenes, the plot contains an amazing number of
outright ludicrous elements that I must protest. Taking it from the
beginning: In the opening scene, a coalition of police forces storms a
Moscow nightclub to arrest a Russian gang figure named Gazzi. Now, as
any policeman knows, the first thing you do in an arrest is handcuff
the perp. But in this case, despite their overwhelming numbers and
armament, Major Koslova (Venora) and Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier),
stand and argue with the guy for a few minutes while the other police
stand by and do nothing. This, of course, allows Gazzi to get the jump
on Koslova with a knife. Not the greatest police work. Then as Gazzi
and Koslova struggle, she manages to get her gun free and shoot him. A
few minutes later Preston thanks her for saving his life. His life? She
was the one he was trying to kill.
For revenge, Gazzi's brother hires the Jackal (Bruce Willis) to perform an assassination of, as it turns out, the First Lady of the U.S. In the next scene, the Jackal purchases a weapon on the internet - from some sort of eBay for terrorists, it would seem. He chooses a huge Gatling gun that fires monstrous depleted uranium bullets at an advertised 1400 rounds a minute (although if you time the actual firing later in the film, it isn't even a third of that rate). Now the question is: Was he high? If you want to kill a single person the best weapon is a sniper rifle of some kind, like the one used by the Jackal in the original novel. One of those would have been infinitely easier to acquire, transport, and hide. Instead he buys a machine cannon that would be more appropriate for engaging an entire army division. Okay, dramatic license, but please.
He smuggles the giant weapon to Canada, and there he contracts a local techno-hood (Jack Black) to build him a remote controlled firing apparatus. He tells the hood he doesn't want to attract any attention, and demands that he turn over the blueprints for the thing when he is finished. Then when the hood asks him or a few thousand bucks for the plans (out of 70 million the Jackal is being paid), he takes the guy out into the woods and uses him for target practice with his weapon, leaving the corpse and several hundred somewhat unusual depleted uranium bullets for the authorities to find. How's that for not attracting attention? In the book, the Jackal kills the guy in his house and hides the body, much more credibly.
After the gruesome murder scene is quickly discovered, Preston and Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere) fly up to Canada and locate the hood's shop, where they find the blueprints for the firing station that were so important for the Jackal to destroy, although after he'd killed Black, the Jackal seems to have decided the blueprints weren't worth going back to the shop for. This is a guy that is the absolute best at his trade? Mulqueen takes one look at the plans for the device, which had nothing to do with the weapon itself except to mount it and fire it, and immediately deduces the exact cyclic rate of the weapon's automatic fire. Brainy.
The Jackal manages to smuggle the weapon across Lake Michigan on a pleasure boat, and as he's docked at a marina he spies Mulqueen, who appears to be searching for him (Mulqueen had not yet seen him at that point). Does he try to hide, to appear inconspicuous, to keep a low profile? No, he pulls out a gun and starts firing at Mulqueen! How's that for not attracting attention? Then he has to make a screaming getaway in his van. Great plan, for someone whose success depends on not being discovered.
For her safety, Mulqueen's former lover Isabella (Mathilda May) is moved out of her house by the FBI people, who fear the Jackal may come after her. Why he might be after her is never explained (perhaps he would need a pleasantly sadistic diversion from the tedious job of planning an assassination). Rather than leave the house empty, Koslova and an FBI agent remain in it, sitting ducks. Why? At one point they realize the Jackal is probably inside the house (they were outside at the time). Do they call for backup? Do they establish a perimeter and contain him, knowing that they have him boxed in? No, of course not. They run back into the house, where the Jackal, hiding and waiting for them, kills them both. Police Work 101? In the film's climactic scene, the Jackal and Mulqueen face off in a DC Metro station in the middle of the day. The scene is a good 5 minutes long, and for the duration of it no one else (except for Isabella) appears in the station. Even assuming that all the riders had been scared away by the gunplay, it's hard to imagine that no police of any variety showed up. Maybe the director waved them out.
Considering the competence of the good guys and the bad guy, it's surprising anybody won.
I was sure this movie was going to be a disappointment, but after seeing it I have to say I was deeply wrong. Sure, the story has numerous big holes (Gere knows the operating technique of his opponent so well and down to the last detail, you'd think they used to live together from the moment they were born - total exaggeration, another example are the lame effects when he's between two trains), and Gere's dialect is way off (for some reason it didn't bother me at all), but the rest is pure action and entertainment extravaganza. Bruce Willis was a perfect choice for the Jackal and Sidney Poitier was as always amazing and really helped the atmosphere of the movie with his role. The ending was a bit short, but in my opinion necessary, because I knew what was going to happen, so why delay it. Nicely done, and great music. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a re-make of "The Day of The Jackal" this movie succeeds in updating
the setting without completely destroying the character. As so many
re-makes tend to do. Here we find the historical and geo-political
context totally changed but there is successfully conveyed the sense of
an urgent hunt for one dangerous, faceless force of doom.
The technical aspects are among the best features. The cannon is for me the true star of the movie. Willis's multiple identities make for the other star feature. Also his portrayal of the psychopath's obsessional attention to detail and determination to make his lethal "toy" fulfil it's dreadful promise. Check out that look in his eyes in the climactic park scene as he wiggles his "joy" stick.
These things allowed, there is one blundering and grossly offensive feature. Gere's character could have been any terrorist from an imaginary outfit or assassin or foreign agent, who happened to know about the "Jackal". Why make him a "hero" out of the IRA? This is yet another manifestation of Hollywood's liberal mind-set dabbling in things of which they have not the glimmering of an understanding. As a UK citizen I have seen plenty of IRA and UDA thugs dragged out into the daylight. Fat tattooed men with twisted faces, scruffy facial hair and mullet hair-cuts. There never was one who could by the remotest stretch of the imagination be likened to a suave sex-bomb like Richard Gere. When one of the FBI agents suggests that his "war" took the lives of women and children rather than "British" soldiers he declares that he never got involved in such things. That is a statement every bit as ridiculous as if it were uttered by one of Osama Bin Laden's lieutenants! Can you imagine Richard Gere at a meeting planning the Manchester city centre bombing, saying to his "colleagues" "Aw, I'm sorry, I 'll have to sit it out on this one, chaps, this isn't my way of fighting a war." And, incidentally, Ulster has been a constitutional part of the British Isles for five hundred years ( twice as long as the U.S.A has existed ). Please note, Hollywood, the Northern Irish ARE British. Moreover, the use of the expression "British" to refer to the English ( which would have been what he meant ) is a uniquely American error.
There are also numerous "howlers" in the story. For example, if destroying the plans is so important to the assassin, why does he go off and leave them laying about to be discovered? When the gangster falls dead in the car-park, what happens to the body? Where did Gere's pistol come from in the final scenes? Why did the Jackal wait for the FBI to arrive before opening fire on the intended victim? Why, when they knew who it was and that he was there, did they not simply postpone the opening? Why were there no police or security arriving in the Metro station ( apart from the one killed )?
These things aside, a good set of cliff-hangers and one excellent and novel twist, a play on our assumptions, at the end.
I had a bit of fun reading through user comments on Jackal, and there
are two perpetuating issues in about 90 percent of them: 1) this
"version" of "Jackal" has nothing on the original (because the original
was "oh so great") 2) only idiots enjoyed this version (because its
plot is silly).
My response would be: 1) the original wasn't so great either (go ahead and jump at me) 2) anybody who thinks only an idiot would enjoy silly movies is an idiot himself.
On the first point - why is even so necessary to compare remakes to originals if they can stand perfectly on their own? This one can. In fact it even has advantages over its classic predecessor, such as better editing, better cinematography and even better acting. You may think I'm holding onto a straw here by nitpicking but I'm an odd person that values the benefits of modern productions.
On the second point - if silliness (better yet stupidity) of the plot was the criteria by which to avoid the movie, I would probably have seen only about a dozen movies in my lifetime. I would have avoided Bond movies, period movies, parodies and what not. And I'd be poorer for that. So, forget silliness, it's no big deal.
Now a little on the movie itself. The plot is indeed stupid (for an in-depth analysis I recommend reading hilarious Roger Ebert's review). The cast reversal is also a bit of misfortune as Gere was initially supposed to be the Jackal. The fact that the role eventually went to Bruce Willis, together with adventuristic nature of Jackal's business, made me root for the bad guy as I never did before. He is conceived as sort of an upgraded James Bond here, being more ruthless, with drier sense of humor and taking advantage of both sexes (not only females) to his cause.
I don't know if making bad guy look good was the intention on part of the film crew, but it turned out a very subversive move for a typical Hollywood venture (making an IRA terrorist that pursues Jackal a likable guy as well is probably another one, but I wont go into that). All in all, it was a suspenseful voyage with such a good pace that you don't care about the shortcomings at the first viewing, so I say it's recommendable. There are certainly far worse ways you could waste two hours.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Amidst all the many problems that make this a dire piece of celluloid is the stupidest plot device in recent cinema history. Richard Gere determines who the Jackal's real target is through some form of revelation. He does not work anything out, it just comes to him. When in doubt "He's going after the First Lady!". This film blows chunks.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A almost-typical modern-day crime film in which a hired killer goes
after a political figure and the FBI tries to stop him.
THE BAD - There is a shootout scene at the harbor where nobody was shot despite three professional killers all doing the shooting. Then there is the classic Hollywood hesitation by the killer at the end, thus enabling the potential victim to be spared. That same killer ("The Jackal," played by Bruce Willis) would also have killed the FBI man (Richard Gere) without hesitation at the end. And, how Gere knew Willis was in the subway is never explained. There are other credibility holes, too, in here: too many.
THE GOOD - The cast of Willis, Gere, Sidney Poitier and Diane Venora is first- class. All of them play interesting and likable characters - even the villain! Gere did a credible job with an Irish accent and Venora the same, playing a Russian. It was fun watch Willis with his various disguises. The story keeps your interest all the way. It does it right by not having too much action, but shocking and memorable when it does occur. If you have good speakers there is some great sound in the last 20 minutes. A good movie if you like suspense.
OVERALL - Definitely worth a look...or two.
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