Jack's Back (1988) Poster

(1988)

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Surprisingly good thriller with a terrific lead in Spader.
Li-15 May 2003
Rating: *** out of ****

Despite having one of the worst titles I've ever heard, Jack's Back is actually a nifty little thriller, a true hidden gem if I ever saw one. I happened to come across the film at a used video store (like the title, the cover box is pretty awful, too) (makes you wonder if the trailers and TV promos were also just as lame), and being a James Spader fan, decided to give it a look. Nice to see this turned out to be one of the better impulse buys I've made in a while.

The title refers to Jack the Ripper, or more specifically, a copycat who's committing similar murders in Los Angeles on the same days on the hundredth anniversary of when the original killings occurred. Without giving anything away, I'll simply say that James Spader and Cynthia Gibb are the protagonists who are searching for the killer, even though Spader himself might be the one.

Despite a plot that plays somewhat like a routine thriller, the story is still fairly enjoyable for what it is. There are a few plot twists and turns, some unpredictable, some which are fairly obvious. Fans of whodunnits (and let's face it, I think everyone enjoys a good whodunnit every once in a while) will find just enough intriguing detail to make this at least an average viewing.

But what sets this apart from many thrillers, particularly those of the late 80's, is the emphasis on characters. Writer/director Rowdy Herrington probably spends even more time developing the lead protagonists than he does fueling the main plot (I can actually see how this might somewhat disappoint whodunnit fans hoping for a very convoluted plot, or slasher fans expecting more, well, slashing). Consequently, the suspense is ratcheted up a few notches and we find ourselves caring about the outcome.

Most of the credit for this should go to Spader, who delivers a terrifically charismatic and extremely likable performance. He plays a man who's hardly a saint, but realistic in that he's flawed, and simultaneously more than capable of showing a genuine conscience. Cynthia Gibb (who's very cute) works well with Spader, she's charmingly convincing and adorable. The rest of the cast isn't really worth mentioning except for maybe Robert Picardo as a thoughtful police psychologist (who happens to live in a mansion, no less). Everybody else is mostly present to act as suspects or people who are simply in Spader's way.

Herrington's direction is quite good, setting up a creepy atmosphere, nicely accompanied with an equally creepy score. It's Herrington's storytelling that could use more work. While many details are set up well, the finale stumbles due to a rather large leap in logic. To some, the film's conclusion might also seem rather abrupt, without quite enough explanation for all that transpired. If Herrington had tightened up his story, he might have had a great thriller on his hands. As it is, this is merely a good movie that rates well above average. But I shouldn't be complaining. Jack's Back is a pleasant surprise, even moreso for a movie with such an awful title.
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6/10
Spader's charisma in full force
stills-67 October 1999
I am at a loss to explain why James Spader is not a major star. He got a good start with 80s teen flicks and didn't burn out too fast. This movie shows off his acting as well as his on-screen charisma. His everyman is better than Harrison Ford's, usually, because you know there's some intelligence and humanity behind the intensity.

There's some nice moments in the movie, and it has a quirky feel that makes it endearing despite the violent content. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite hold together and the quirkiness doesn't stop it from been a familiar story. Incidentally, despite the direct description of its plot, it's a terrible title.
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10/10
One of the most under-appreciated films of the 80's
pizowell1 January 2003
Someone is killing prostitutes in a very Jack The Ripper-esque fashion on the 100 year anniversaries of The Ripper's original murders. A med student (Spader) gets caught up in the last murder and winds up meeting a tragic fate. Now his twin brother (also played by Spader) is out to find the man responsible for his death and gets caught up in the middle of the copycat murder case in the process. Oh, and he has to clear his own name because he is a suspect in the above mentioned case AND also a suspect in his brothers murder...Whooo. Now that's a s*** load of plot!

Jack's Back is an odd movie and kind of deceiving. You see, no one in their right mind is gonna market a movie this complicated. So what the box tells ya is that Jack's Back is about a murderer mimicking the Jack The Ripper slayings of a century ago. Well, that's only half the movie. Jack's Back is a murder mystery turned revenge noir turned suspense thriller that manages to avoid drowning itself in murky plot, pointless subplot, or endless dialogue in an attempt to competently tell the story and wrap everything up in the end. From the title and basic premise of the film one may think it's just your basic slasher type/murder mystery exploitation stuff that was recycled over and over again when this movie was released. If so, you're wrong...

Jack's Back starts as a murder mystery about a nutball killing prostitutes, when we meet a med student with a heart of gold, John played by James Spader. He soon finds himself at the scene of one of the Ripper murders and is eventually killed. His shady twin brother Rick who sees the murder in a dream soon pops up. The police are quick to write off John's death as a suicide, but Rick knows better. He soon sets out to find the guy responsible with the help of Chris (Gibb) who had a thing for John and is developing a thing for Rick when he finds that things aren't as they seemed and the Ripper copycat is out for more blood. Writer/director Rowdy Herrington gives us a strong, well developed script with great characters and memorable situations. His ability to shift from a murder mystery to revenge flick to thriller deserves major props. Props to Herrington for creating such likeable and complex characters too. Great job! From a directing standpoint, Herrington gives the movie a moody and uneasy atmosphere blanketed in thick fog. Burnout Central award to Herrington.

James Spader delivers a layered and very strong double performance that engaged me and kept my eyes glued on him. Cynthia Gibb gives a strong performance as well. I dug how the script didn't go into familiar romantic territory even though Spader and Gibb had great chemistry. Burnout Central awards to both!

It was great to watch a movie with such a dense storyline that never forget what it was supposed to do-entertain. I was intrigued and fascinated with the story, performances and Herrington's ability to construct such a multi-layered plot and still find a way to pull it all together. Jack's Back isn't conventional in the least, it marches to its own drum, has class, and is well written, acted and directed. Check it out!
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7/10
Ripper has got himself a modern-day copycat.
lost-in-limbo26 April 2008
This item might be trapped in its 80s decor (fashion, music), but this stylishly compelling and crisp psychological thriller holds it cards close and leads the way with an appealingly subtle and sincere James Spader performance. This guy has charisma! And he strongly pulls off the whole dual part of playing twins. The premise is one of those, the less you know, the better off you are. When you think you have it figured out, you'll find yourself at square one again. It's a simple, but cleverly penned whodunit murder mystery story. Its odd and manipulative multi-layered structure offers unpredictable turns, hidden clues, suspicious red herrings, but in the long run leaves some spotty developments and a real lack of motivation. It might annoy and could've used some tweaking, but the well-paced story (that takes time to give our protagonist some depth) and sense of urgency just grips you that you just go with it. Director / writer Rowdy Herrington's directorial debut shows assurance in his abilities. The thrills are routine, but confidently done with razor-sharp timing and jarring force. They're menacing, brooding, bloody and a little disturbing. He really does hold you at bay with powerful visuals and anxious suspense. The moody photography and lighting composition drills in well with the stirringly blues music score. This blends well in with eerily glum and sullen atmospheric tinge coming from the Los Angles' setting. The performances are well-suited. Spader is the film's main drive, but Cynthia Gibb is capably good and Robert Picardo turns in a sound performance. Its also stars Jim Haynie, Chris Mulkey, Rod Loomis, John Wesley and Rex Ryon in amusingly fine support.

A wonderfully quirky and darkly projected thriller that's better than your average output.
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I enjoyed it.
galaxia212217 July 2004
It's been a long time since I've seen this but I enjoyed the movie and thought that James Spader gave a great performance. My best friend had it taped off TV and was mentioning the movie one day and hunted it out for us to watch after I had said that I had never seen it or even heard of it, which was odd because I was a fan of James Spader.

The movie has a lot of twists and turns and the excitement builds up and you really get engrossed in the film. James and Cynthia had great chemistry and I agree with others that their romance was not done in a typical, over-done fashion.

The title of the movie is bad and makes you think automatically that it will just be some stupid B movie but it's actually one of the best thrillers I've seen and definitely the best thriller out of the "B" section. I think if the film had more publicity and a better cover/title more people would know of it and want to rent it.

I would recommend it to anyone that likes a good thriller, especially ones that they've never heard of and want to be surprised.
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Hidden gem! Great Spader movie!
d_sakaki25 June 2003
I caught this on TV late at night. Thought it would just be some

typical 80's slasher movie, but I was pleasantly surprised to see

what a genuinely well-made thriller this was. It's a basic potboiler

story, but thoughtfully executed and James Spader is excellent in a

dual role as twin brothers. It's got a little bit of everything --

reincarnating the Jack the Ripper myth, twin brothers who are (of

course) total opposites, a bit of the paranormal, a great whodunit

mystery, and some genuinely creepy scenes. Spader really makes

this watchable -- the story's solid enough, but his performance is

just so much fun to watch. He plays one twin, who is the affable,

friendly doctor who works in a local free clinic, and then his

anti-hero bad-boy twin brother who works a minimum-wage job,

has shady connections, but ultimately shares his brother's sense

of justice and good heart. And Spader's performance isn't the

typical uber-yuppie, not a whiny preppy wimp, and not a total

psychopath. He's just playing an average guy trying to do the right

thing, save the girl, and clear his brother's name by finding the real

murderer. It's good stuff! For James Spader fans, I think it's a great

chance to see him do yet another unique job of character

interpretation.
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6/10
A Cool Take on the Ripper Story
gavin694224 October 2012
A serial killer in Los Angeles celebrates Jack the Ripper's 100th anniversary by committing similar murders.

My first thought was how strange this film was for starting when there was only one murder left. It seems like it would make more sense to start at the first murder and allow the characters to solve the mystery of the pattern. Instead, they know from the opening scene that the killer is following the pattern of Jack the Ripper. This takes out much of the mystery element...

The cast here is pretty great, with both James Spader and Robert Picardo, both (I think) before becoming bigger names. Spader always had that boy next door charm, and Picardo is interesting and plays his role as a psychiatrist well, coming off as very suspicious at all the right moments.

The New York Times said "is so dull it leaves you plenty of time to marvel at how a plot can be this rickety, how a production can look this shabby, and how the first-time writer and director Rowdy Herrington could borrow a story with so relentless a grip on our imaginations and in no time at all declaw it." This seems terribly harsh. While not the greatest movie, it is still much better than many films out there, and had a premise that was enough to carry it.

I watched this film on Netflix, and I am told this version is different from the one on VHS or that was shown in theaters. I would be curious to know the differences, as I am told they are big enough to completely change the plot of the film... I liked the version I saw, but maybe the other is even better?
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10/10
One of the best Modern Day "Jack The Ripper" movies to come along.
maeander5 December 2001
This film is a solid, off-beat take off of the entire "Jack The Ripper" genre. A solid cast of mostly unknowns do justice to a script with enough plot twist to surprise anyone. Can an identical twin see the other's death? Do identical twins have identical fingerprints? Why can't the hero find a place that sells guns AND bullets. Yes there may be one coincidence too many in the plot. And the wry one-liners sometimes work against the over all haunting mood of the film. But if your looking for a film that covers old ground in a unique, refreshing way; Jack's Back is it. The one big question I had was how could Cynthia Gibb's medical student character afford to drive a $40,000 635CSi BMW sedan.
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8/10
A Fun '80s Movie
bean-d11 March 2011
"Jack's Back" (1988) is a serial killer movie that is thoroughly '80s: the soundtrack, the lighting, the acting--everything. Watching this movie is like going back many years in a time machine. In other words, it's pretty fun. It's also surprisingly restrained. For example, in a scene where the lead goes into a topless bar to buy a gun, there is no obligatory shot of topless girls gyrating around steel poles; he just walks into the bar owner's office. Who knows, maybe the small budget held them back, but it was actually enjoyable to watch a movie that didn't indulge in every predictable grotesquerie.

The plot is simple: It's the hundred-year anniversary of Jack the Ripper's crime spree, and someone is killing prostitutes in exactly the same manner, on exactly the same dates. Kinda fun.
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Uneven, but solid little DTV Thriller
cchase26 December 2000
Because DTV (Direct-To-Video) thrillers have a reputation for being the "bastard stepchildren" of larger budgeted cable, TV and big screen fare, some great little movies that hold dynamite performances have a tendency to become underrated and overlooked. This was definitely one of them.

James Spader gives a performance every bit as remarkable as that of Jeremy Irons in DEAD RINGERS, playing twins who become embroiled in a murder mystery involving a serial killer, who is copycatting the infamous Jack the Ripper's horrendous legacy of bloody terror, down to the most minute details.

B-movie pro Herrington knows how to keep the action, cinematography and editing going at maximum warp, so that the glaring inconsistencies and gaping plot holes are apparent only on repeated viewings. But if you can get past that, you will be rewarded by Spader's performance, (which gives one all the more reason to wonder why this man is not a major star right now), as well as some fine turns by Cynthia Gibb (TV's FAME), Jim Haynie, TWIN PEAKS' Chris Mulkey (another criminally overlooked actor), and a wickedly enjoyable portrayal by Rod Loomis, as a local doctor who knows a lot more about the murders than he lets on.

A nice little surprise that's worth seeking out on the shelves of your local video palace when all the "good" stuff is gone for the weekend.
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4/10
You're Not Missing Much
angelakenney-5298220 November 2019
I'd put off watching Jack's Back for quite sometime. I couldn't tell if it was the bland artwork that turned me off or the idea of a modern Jack the Ripper. Something just told me not to bother. I finally bothered and I wish I hadn't.

Jack's Back is exactly what it sounds like. A copycat of Jack the Ripper has been killing hookers in modern day L.A. (well, modern day L.A. of the late 80's) and a young doctor is drawn into his web of terror. Twists and turns abound, but they usually show up because you can feel that the writer got bored with what they were writing and decided to make a sequence a dream or give a character a twin.

There aren't many thrills here, which is the kiss of death for a so-called thriller, but James Spader is good and there are some cool shots of downtown L.A. in the 80's.
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5/10
Obscure little thriller
preppy-330 October 2004
An updating of Jack the Ripper made on the centennial of his infamous murders.

A murderer in Los Angeles is imitating Jack the Ripper--he kills only prostitutes and in the exact same way Jack did. Idealistic kind doctor John Westford (James Spader) stumbles into the last killing and finds a coworker there who said he didn't do it. This leads to a fight, a very unpleasant killing....and a plot twist that will either have you laughing out loud (in disbelief) or thinking "what the f*** where they thinking"? Obviously I'm not going to give it away--but it comes about 30 minutes in--your reaction to the twist will determine how you like the movie. If you accept it you might like it. If you find it totally ridiculous (like me) you'll probably hate the movie.

Also this is being sold as a horror movie. Hardly. There is one bloody killing and another unpleasant one...but that's it. This is a murder mystery--you try to figure out who the killer is. The acting varies. The supporting cast is very good but the two leads aren't. Cynthia Gibb is TERRIBLE as the love interest. As for Spader...he's an excellent actor but way too laid back for this role. Also the movie just looks ugly.

So...an OK murder mystery--but a bad script and some miscast actors really hurt it. I can only give it a 5. You might just want to watch the beginning for the twist--it IS quite different!
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5/10
James Spader in a rare hero role
BandSAboutMovies24 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I'm kind of obsessed with young James Spader. Let's face it, in movies like The New Kids and Tuff Turf he exuded either a coked-up menace or hardscrabble heart that's hard to beat. Here, he plays two roles. First, he's a young doctor that becomes a suspect in a series of Jack the Ripper copycat murders. But then he dies - and his twin brother may or may not be the true killer.

Written and directed by Pittsburgh native Rowdy Herrington (Roadhouse, Striking Distance), this film also stars Cynthia Gibb (the TV version of Fame), Jim Haynie (the dockmaster from The Fog), character actor Robert Picardo and Rod Loomis (Zed from The Beastmaster).

Harrington wanted the movie to be titled Red Rain and for the Peter Gabriel song to be in the film. However, this was his low budget debut, he couldn't get the rights, so he had a song composed called "Red Harvest," which sounds exactly like the Gabriel ditty. However, the studio felt that the title had nothing to do with the movie, so they renamed it.

The story isn't any great shakes: the good twin has found one of the victims before becoming one himself, while the troubled brother becomes the prime suspect. It's also one of those movies packed with red herrings and endings that aren't endings. So it's kinda sorta an American giallo - minus the black gloves, inventive camerawork, fashion and neon colors. But the story - where a protagonist is dragged into a situation that he must investigate himself - comes off that way. And despite all the things I've said above, I ended up enjoying this one.

Spader is great - he always is - and you have to wonder about Cynthia Gibb's character. It seems weird for the same woman to be involved with two brothers, but I guess identical twins makes that a little easier, if no less creepy.
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Only Spader makes it worthwhile
necessary_angel_123 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Warning: minor spoilers

James Spader is such a fine actor that he can make even dreck fairly watchable. This film starts out well, especially if you do not know going into it that Spader plays two roles. The surprise death of the heretofore main character ten or fifteen minutes in is an effective shocker. But much of the plot of this film is poor. A viewer would have to be heavily sedated not to realize who the killer is during the first third of the film -- he is such a cliché that all he is missing is a handlebar mustache to twirl, and the actor playing him does everything but hold up a sign saying "I'm an evil psychopath! Watch me!" Plus, his behavior in the final part of the movie is completely inexplicable. He isn't copying Jack the Ripper anymore, his intended victim isn't a prostitute, he has apparently gotten away with his crimes because someone else is under arrest and that person is guilty of at least one murder -- why do what he does? Oh, so we can have a final confrontation and end the film!

However, "Jack's Back" is somewhat redeemed by Spader, who makes the twins distinct characters without overplaying their differences. Clearly the movie's director didn't realize how good Spader was, because he insists on giving "Rick" a scar and a radically different hairstyle, which are completely unnecessary (especially since the two characters' roles in the film do not overlap). As Rick, the comparatively ne'er-do-well twin (the main role), Spader projects a fair degree of complexity and does so in subtle ways. Watch the scene in which he goes into his brother's house, looks at books, photos, and then the unmade bed. Spader has no dialogue here, and doesn't overdo it -- no tears, no punching the wall, no bitter turning away -- but the play of emotions across his face is brilliant and tells us everything we need to know about their relationship. That's great acting.

Besides the awful villain, other cast member are uneven. Cynthia Gibb is fine, Robert Picardo convincing as a smarter than average psychiatrist working with the police, and the always reliable Chris Mulkey (one of those "oh yeah, that guy!" actors) plays his usual slightly dense and harmlessly (if cluelessly) lecherous cop. But Wendell Wright badly overplays the police captain who repeatedly leaps to the wrong conclusions.

Otherwise, the film suffers from being obviously of its era, the late '80's.

Thus the music is really bad, especially for a suspense film, and they give us the wretched theme song ("Red Harvest" whatever that means, by Paul Saax, whoever that was) over both the beginning and ending credits. The clothes are accurate for the time, but it was not a good era fashion-wise. The hairstyles look especially silly, with poor Spader having to wear a swept across 'do that looks like he just missed the final cut when auditioning for a "Flock of Seagulls" tribute band, and the otherwise lovely Gibb is trapped in a late '80's gal-mullet. Saucony shoes apparently paid for product placement. Even the opening credits look cheap and generic.

All in all, a mediocre film that starts out as if it will be much better but falls apart in the final reel, and that is only worth watching as part of a James Spader film festival.

** 1/2
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1/10
no action, no suspense, zero gore, 100% bore
bradleybean8612 June 2013
in theory this movie should/could have been awesome. unfortunately, it's probably the single most disappointing little known 80's B Horror film i've managed to track down in all my years of horror viewing. I love 'those' types of movies, the complete freedom to be crazy, violent, ridiculously funny, or even scary and disturbing if the colours are mixed correctly. This movie is none of those things. The 'ripper' is not-so-elegantly foreshadowed by his first 2 lines in the first 5 minutes in the movie, so even the most unsophisticated viewer will know exactly what will transpire towards the end. Also the red herring is shamelessly gallivanted around as if to say "it's this guy, its this guy, it's THIS GUY. And I think most of the IMDb and cult horror viewers like myself will struggle to not roll their eyeballs completely out of their sockets during the course of this movie.

OK so the plot stinks! The acting is alright, there's a bit of a sub- plot love story between a younger more attractive James Spader (look up recent pictures of him as an example of how to NOT age gracefully :( and he's just not sexy enough to carry the 'mysterious dark loner' type guy. While horror movies do NOT need to have explicit amounts of gore or violence in order to be good; it certainly tends to help in films like this that just end up being completely boring.

I'm assuming this film was originally produced to air on TV and then later video as even the uncut version has zero nudity or violence. Jack the ripper would be ashamed if he had seen this.

That being said, if you really enjoy James Spader and whatever lady he co-stars with, if you have an affinity for slightly trashy murder mysteries (sans the mystery in this case) or if you had seen this movie decades ago, perhaps it is worth a revisit :)

*also* be on the lookout for the single most ridiculous uppercut/ninja punch that I cannot believe wasn't edited out to look less ridiculous.
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6/10
If the shoe fits!
sol121822 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** Very disjointed movie about this "Jack the Ripper" imitator who's out to duplicated his horrific crimes this time in L.A ,not London,that he committed exactly, back in 1888, 100 years ago. After murdering and dissecting, like the "Ripper" did, four of his victims it's expected by the LAPD that the "L.A Ripper" is due for one more ,victim more #5, to complete his grizzly task.

The film "Jack's Back" centers around the L.A Free Clinic "Echo Park" located in the poor and slummy side of town. Working at Echo Park is young and socially conscious minded med student John Westford, James Spader, who's at odds with his pain in the a** boss Dr. Sidney Tannerson, Rod Loomis. Dr. Tennerson is always threatening to fire John for shooting off his mouth to the media about how bad those without money or health insurance are treated in the country's hospitals.

Working with John is this big sweaty and deranged looking med-student, like John, Jack Pendler, Rex Ryan, who's obviously, just by his actions, the #1 suspect, to those of us watching the movie, in the "Rippers" killings. Jack doesn't disappoint us by showing up at Denises Johnson's, Daitza Kimngsley, apartment to preform an abortion on her for a cool $200.00! This in 1988 when abortions were legal in the US and for free in the free clinic-Echo Park- where Denise was a patient at! We never really get to see what happened to Denise but she ends up dead with Jack now in deep sh*t in being the last person to see her alive!

With John showing up at Denise's place and finding her dead, with Jack barging down the stairs, it's obvious to him that Jack is the "L.A Ripper" and takes off after him. Trying to take on the much bigger and powerful Jack John ends up getting killed, in his being strung up, by him. It's then that were introduced to John's twin brother Rick, also played by James Spender, who at the moment of John's murder he had a dream of it happening!

By the time Rick shows up the "Jack the Ripper" angle of the movie becomes completely kaput in that the killer fulfilled his quota of murders, five, that the real "Jack the Ripper" committed back in 1888. Were then bombarded with claims and counter-claims, by the police and Rick, to who the real "L.A Ripper is". Jack after murdering John had left a suicide note on him where he confessed that he in fact was the "L.A Ripper" which obviously he wasn't!

Rick with the help of his late brother John's fellow clinic worker Christine Moscari, Cynthia Gibbs, then try to track down the real killer of not only John but the five "Ripper" victims. The movie get more complicated by the minute with both Rick & Christine not getting anywhere in finding the killer who seems to be everywhere and everyplace at the same time!

The ridicules ending of the movie has "The Ripper", now with his identity reviled, again come out of the shadows and attempt to murder Christina while she's sleeping in bed. Why "The Ripper" would want to murder Christina or anybody else for that matter is the biggest surprises in the movie! He already met his goal, five murders, so why try to improve it by adding victim #6 to his scorecard!

P.S There's a scene in the movie where "The Ripper" is caught, by Rick, spying on Christina as she's undressing in her apartment. Making a hasty retreat all that "The Ripper" left was his wet shoe prints. Later at his job as a shoe salesman Rick fits the very same shoes on one of his customers, Brian Fats Bender, that was at least a size 14 or 15! This made you as well as Rick suspect that "Fats" was the elusive serial killer in that the shoes in both the size and style that he wears fits that of "The Ripper". It's later when we finally got to see who "The Ripper" really was he was at least half, in hight weight as well as shoe size, the size that "The Ripper" was according to the shoe prints he left outside of Christina's apartment!
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7/10
Spader is aces in this low budget feature.
Hey_Sweden11 February 2016
While all of my reviews usually include a brief rehashing of the story, I'll try to say as little as possible, so people can experience the twists fresh. The main idea is that in 1988 L. A., on the 100th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper slayings, a current serial killer is replicating those murders down to the last detail. James Spader plays John Wesford, a do-gooder medical student employed at a clinic, and John ends up suspected of the crimes. So not only must the psychopath be identified, but Johns' name must be cleared...by an unexpected source.

"Jack's Back" creator Rowdy Herrington had been working in the business approximately a dozen years, doing various odd jobs behind the camera, before making this writing & directing debut. He realized that the anniversary of the Jack the Ripper crimes was imminent, and tied in that element to a story he'd already conceived. While his movie isn't anything special, it *is* solidly entertaining. It might not be gory enough for some people, but it has some good atmosphere (the sets are deliberately rendered to be somewhat hazy), and Herringtons' story twists help to keep things somewhat interesting.

The main attraction is in seeing Spader subtly delineate two different characters. Herrington has also assembled a strong supporting cast here: pretty Cynthia Gibb as an intelligent leading lady, Jim Haynie, Chris Mulkey (source of some amusing comedy relief), and John Wesley as assorted detectives working the case, Rod Loomis as the ill-tempered head doctor at the clinic, Rex Ryon as Johns' co-worker, and the always great Robert Picardo as a psychiatrist lending the cops his expertise.

Nicely filmed at a variety of L. A. locations.

Seven out of 10.
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1/10
Avoid wasting any time on this pathetic film. You're better off watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
Vivekmaru4517 June 2010
What a horrendous film, I am amazed at the films high rating. After watching Jack the Ripper (1988 TV) starring Michael Caine, Armand Assante and Jane Seymour, and also From Hell (2001) starring Johnny Depp and Ian Holm, I was expecting more of the same.

Alas, this film disappoints from the start. A poorly executed plot, mediocre acting with shallow characters.

This is James Spader's worst film to date. He performed much better in Stargate (1994) and The Watcher (2000).

The title refers to a Jack the Ripper copycat, who's committing similar murders in Los Angeles on the same days on the hundredth anniversary of when the original killings occurred.

Plot: A young doctor John Westford (James Spader) finds himself at the scene of one of the Ripper murders and is eventually killed. His identical twin brother Rick Westford (James Spader) claims to have seen visions of the true killer in a dream. The police think that John had committed the murder and was the copycat. Now Rick has the chance to prove his brother was innocent and the the murderer is someone else.......

In conclusion, not worth wasting 1hr 33mins on this flick. Do something else instead like cleaning your house or going for a walk in the park.
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6/10
Disappointing....(SPOILERS)
gridoon24 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't much like this movie. It's odd and unusual enough to keep you off-balance, but the plot has some gaps and unexplained parts.....(SPOILERS FOLLOW)

Early on, we see a man committing a most brutal murder, but ultimately it is revealed that the "Ripper" is someone else. The whole behavior of the first man strikes me as inexplicable. Perhaps there is a curious kind of connection, a bond between the two killers, but it is never made clear. This script looks like a part of a greater whole that we don't get to see. (**)
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This may be superficial, however...
GettSmartt19 May 2003
This may be a superficial observation, but for those of us who are fans of James Spader -- about 30 minutes into the film when we are introduced to Rick -- there is a great shot of Spader in bed. What a physique!! Oh la la! I would see the movie for that shot alone (smile) -- I warned you it was superficial. However, for a movie made in 1988, it seemed quite dated. I would have thought it was made in the 1970s. But, on the plus side, you really can't take your eyes off of Spader playing Rick -- he's terrific.
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6/10
Good, Underrated 80's Thriller
gwnightscream7 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This 1988 thriller stars James Spader, Cynthia Gibb and Robert Picardo. This takes place in L.A. where we meet medical student, John Westford (Spader) who is murdered by a Jack The Ripper copycat killer. Soon, his twin brother, Rick has vivid dreams of the murder and is determined to find John's killer. Gibb (Short Circuit 2) plays Chris Moscari, John's friend and Picardo (The Howling) plays psychiatrist, Carlos Battera. This is a good, underrated 80's thriller and Spader is great in it. If you're into psychological thrillers or horror flicks, give this one a try.
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Rip it up and start again.
sibisi738 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
A twisty thriller that owes most of it's appeal to the charismatic lead performance by James Spader, which gives the film slightly more credibility than it deserves. For those with a penchant for suspense and surprise then there should be enough here to keep you happy, but don't look too hard, as the rest of the film is derivative and cliche-ridden, which is a real shame because it has the potential to be original.

Don't be led astray by the 'Jack The Ripper' analogy, as the film has very little to do with that, and the title seems like a gratuitous cash-in on the centenary. All the killings (bar one) have already taken place at the start of the movie, and the plot is driven not by the hunt for the killer, but rather by the search for the killer of Spader's brother, who is implicated in the murders. When the 'Ripper' is finally revealed it's obvious and unnecessary, since the rest of the story has already been neatly closed. It's also preposterous to believe that the real killer, having completed so perfectly his copycat 'Ripper' killings, would implicate himself, and provide a lifeline for the police's prime suspect who is behind bars, by attempting to murder our leading lady. This final reel is pointless, and only highlights the flaws in the screenplay which have allowed us to be sidetracked away from the real issue.
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A good little horror flick
Whow16888930 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
As said before it was James Spader that carried this movie. Without him this would have been a straight to video movie, which it wasn't. SPOILERS My only nitpick is that they shouldv'e had him work out and buff up for the part since he was going to have to take on a psycho path that was built like a dump truck. But other than that this was a good movie.
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6/10
Jack's Back
Scarecrow-8824 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Running concurrent with a slate of Jack the Ripper style killings, medical student John Wesford(James Spader), working in a free clinic for the uninsured, is attempting to raise awareness about Los Angeles' poverty plight. The style and subjects chosen are practically identical to the notorious Jack the Ripper, left-handed, with anatomical knowledge and precise with surgical tools. One more victim is left to be targeted, and due to a direct link with the Ripper slayings of the past, the one chosen will be pregnant. Jack Pendler(Rex Ryon), a janitor at the free clinic, shows up at a pregnant hooker's apartment to give her an abortion, when John himself decides he might check in on the same woman. John finds the hooker slain on her bed, covered in blood, and, coincidentally, Jack returns supposedly to bring her antibiotics. Panic-stricken, Jack eventually strangles and hangs John by a rope in the free clinic(after pushing John into the dead victim, getting blood on his clothes, he becomes the prime suspect)leaving the police to believe he committed suicide. So John, a "man of the people" is considered the Ripper killer and the only one who might help clear his name is a twin brother, Rick(also played by Spader). But, before losing it, Jack claims hysterically to John that he did not murder the pregnant woman..could someone else actually be responsible for the other crimes?

I would love to say that JACK'S BACK is more than just your standard Hollywood thriller, but it really isn't..well, maybe except for the bizarre way the filmmakers arrange for the real murderer to be identified(not only of his own brother, but the Ripper killer as well). Except for Spader in dual roles, there really isn't much to distinguish this from all the other thrillers you are accustomed to seeing. Police are searching for a killer with multiple twists identifying who the real culprit is, while one clearly is shown murdering a victim, it's an obvious red herring in regards to the Ripper slayings. You know that, despite having completed the Ripper murders as intended, the psychopath would just have to target "damsel in distress", Chris(Cynthia Gibb, the love interest for John, and later Rick, joining forces with him to find the real killer)so that he can not only be put in a position to be caught in the act, but so that the "wrong man", Rick, could come to the rescue. Robert Picardo is psychiatrist Carlos Battera, a little weird(okay, a lot weird), who the police turn to with help apprehending the Ripper killer..his hypnosis assists Rick in putting a face to the real murderer. This film, as directed by Rowdy Herrington(Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze), does include an interesting development which propels the story forward..twin brother Rick actually sees through his dying brother's eyes as he's being strangled and eventually hung in a dream! I found it amusing how the filmmakers arrange the differences between Rick and John: Rick's hairstyle, leather jacket, air of mystery, aura of danger, a speedy convertible, while John has frumpy clothes, a messy apartment, dedicated work ethic, ease with the public, and a dying VW bug which has seen better days. Oh, and Rick knows karate, so he is able to defend himself, unlike his brother, against the mammoth Jack who outweighs him by a cool thirty pounds.
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6/10
Twice as nice?
Radiant_Rose8 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Writer/director Rowdy Herrington seems to want to say something about homelessness, but then the theme trails off.

The best reason to watch this, for most people, is that James Spader plays two roles. (Identical twins, and one of them has an earring!) It may be this film that inspired me to embark on my project of cloning Spader. No luck yet, but I will keep you posted.

Considering the title refers to Jack the Ripper, this film is surprisingly even handed when it comes to the ratio of female to male victims of violence.

There isn't much to dislike about the writing or the acting, but there isn't anything that really jumps out as outstanding.
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