You Don't Know Jack (TV Movie 2010) Poster

(2010 TV Movie)

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Compelling DocuDrama Void of Exploitation, & Pacino's Best Performance in Years
D_Burke15 April 2010
If you remember the 90's, Dr. Jack Kevorkian needs no introduction. His name was as much the subject of medical controversy as it was the punchline of countless jokes. His name was as notorious to some as O.J. Simpson or Richard Ramirez, yet also as admirable to others as Bill Clinton or Michael Jordan.

In the hands of many other directors, Kevorkian's biopic could have been treated more like a farce based on the doctor's past eccentricities, such as showing up in court wearing a powdered wig. Of course, Kevorkian's unabashed behaviors in front of camera lenses are depicted in this film, but fortunately, the details of his assisted suicides are not ever given any sugar coated treatments.

"You Don't Know Jack" tells the story about Dr. Kevorkian we should already know. Taking place from approximately 1990-1999, the film takes us from Kevorkian's days of being an unemployed physician to the trial that brought an end to his morally questionable practice for good. The lighting throughout this film is dark and often times dreary, but never dull thanks foremost to an impressive performance by Al Pacino that may be his best since "Scent of a Woman".

When watching this film, there was rarely a moment where I thought to myself, "That's Al Pacino playing Dr. Kevorkian". Pacino's signature eyes and husky voice are still ever present, but he disappears into his role so effectively that I found myself saying, "That is Dr. Kevorkian". Not only is that feat so hard to accomplish for an actor so iconic as Pacino, but it's also hard to play someone who most of the American public knew so well from being on TV all the time.

While it's impressive for Pacino to play the Jack we do know, he plays the Jack many "don't know" with a wry wit that makes an appealing character, even if you don't agree with assisted suicide. A great scene involved Pacino delving a subtle verbal blow to protesters outside his apartment building. When he says that the God he believes in, namely Johann Sebastian Bach, isn't imaginary like the God the protesters believe in, you can't help but laugh. I'm Catholic, and I thought it was hilarious.

However, this movie's strength comes in its nonjudgmental view on Kevorkian's practices. The movie never tells you how you should feel, but also clears up the notion that Kevorkian practiced his assisted suicides with reckless abandon. Many of the suicides in the movie focus on the patients themselves, and their absolute certainty that they want their suffering to end. Of course, leaving their loved ones is their hardest decision, something the film indeed recognizes. Is it still wrong? This movie doesn't tell, nor should it.

What's interesting, though, is the focus on Pacino's eyes during the scene where he performs his first procedure. They move back and forth on the screen as the operation continues, and don't try to mask any emotion of any kind. It could mean that Kevorkian doesn't care about his patients, or that he cares enough about them to keep the procedure as precise as possible. The main point: You decide.

The same is true for Kevorkian's unabashed character on camera. It's all here in this film, but director Barry Levinson resists the temptation for Pacino as Kevorkian to wink and nod at the camera. Considering Levinson directed excellent character-centric comedy/dramas like "Good Morning Vietnam" and "Man of the Year", the temptation must have been there. Fortunately, he used his knack for dramas like "Rainman" and "Avalon" instead, and the effect worked wonders.

The supporting cast behind Pacino is excellent. Danny Huston is fantastic as Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's successful lawyer, and is equally as good interacting with Pacino as he is in the courtroom scenes. Brenda Vaccaro, Susan Sarandon, and John Goodman are great supporting members of this film as colleagues who believe in Kevorkian's mission, but also have the outside vantage point to know what he's inevitably destined for.

Whether you agree with Kevorkian's practices or not, it is impossible not to be compelled by this movie. The story draws you in, the characters are well developed in all the right areas, and it doesn't take more than five minutes for Pacino to convince you he is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Do you know Jack by the end of this film? I'm still not sure. But I know an excellent movie when I see one, and this deserves 10 stars. See it!
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Pacino's not dead yet - and this is a killer performance
Chris_Docker28 April 2010
Actors have been known to sit on their laurels. Some would argue that, with Oscar, Emmy, and Tony as best mates on the mantelpiece, Al Pacino can do just that. Do we respectfully think that all his truly great performances are in the past? Godfather, Michael Corleone? Or Scarface, Tony Montana? Happily we can think again. Seeing You Don't Know Jack, we know it's the film Pacino fans have waited for.

Opening scenes give us Dr 'Death' Kevorkian. Before he invents his famous assisted suicide machine. I look closely at this point. I have to reassure myself it is indeed Pacino, not a docu-drama cut-in. For Pacino looks more like Kevorkian than Kevorkian does. Face, body language, tone of voice, the works.

The first achievement is to captivate with the character himself. Not the divisive issues he represents. Bypass the hazards of predictable biopics. Or monotonous 'message' movies. This is quality mainstream film-making and at its best. It doesn't seek to change views, and the spiky Mr Kevorkian leaves plenty of room to disagree, isolating himself often from even his own supporters. This is a passionate man who has little time for other people's views in any general sense. "Who cares what other people think?" he exclaims. "It's what my patient feels." This is not the first time director Barry Levinson has astounded audiences. Slick approaches shaking up accepted thinking. Wag the Dog was to be a wildcard that would embarrass Clinton's government. The Oscar-winner, Rain Man, was criticised for creating a misleading stereotype (Is every autistic person a closet savant? Of course not.) But what Rain Man did do was raise awareness. Make it OK to talk openly about autism. And – perhaps this is the secret – You Don't Know Jack could have a similar effect just because it is just as funny, just as entertaining, just as engaging and just as challenging. We so get many different emotions in fast succession on the screen, until we're primed to consider , "How do I really feel about this?" Real people (including death scenes with Kevorkian's patients) are more gutsier coathooks for feelings than the vague ethical constructs debated in every high school.

If movies learn anything from TV, it's how to keep audience attention. And You Don't Know Jack is suitably punchy. It dismisses any thought of getting up for coffee. No boring arguments for or against euthanasia. None of those Clint Eastwood, long and meditative, 'Million Dollar Baby' moments. Susan Sarandon even brings some of her own caustic lines to a film that often brims over with dark, surreal humour. "Is that Santa Claus stepping on a baby?" she asks casually at an exhibition of Kevorkian's bizarre paintings.

There are powerful performance in abundance, not least from the underrated Danny Huston who plays Fieger, Kevorkian's larger-than-life attorney. (Immediately after the movie first aired, the real Geoffrey Fieger announced he will 'maybe stand again' for governor.) Fieger is a colourful, over-the-top character in real life, perfectly suited to Huston's strengths. After watching Danny Huston's talent wasted in lesser films, such as the well-intentioned Boogie Woogie, it is a joy to see him shine.

Bare-knuckle scenes in You Don't Know Jack are explicit. Both in the physical acts of assisted suicide and in their emotional intensity. Kevorkian recalls his own mother's death to Janet Good (Sarandon). "She told me, 'Imagine the worst toothache in the world – now imagine that toothache in every bone in your body." He is almost penniless (for he never charged) and, with scientific precision, he at one point tries to save on lethal gas. He places his emphysema patient in a plastic hood (to catch the gas, rather than using a face-mask). But the patient panics and it is nearly the last straw for friend and assistant Neal Nicol, played effortlessly by John Goodman. Such scenes are not for the squeamish.

The sense of sincerity and conviction which Pacino gives the role could make it rather uncomfortable viewing if you disagree outright. But this intense, yet sidelong glance at a deeply polarising topic, seriously tackled but deftly relieved with a sharp witty screenplay, might just give new life to a debate that suffers from political hubris set against rather static public opinion.

You Don't Know Jack reveals a person a long way from popular conceptions. Even if you read his autobiography and see him in interview, as I have, he was and still is, a hard person to fathom. An egocentric – or to use a word he suggested himself – a zealot – it often seems that Kevorkian believes in himself to the point of being inaccessible. "You're gonna need some business cards you know!" chides his sister. For this driven man who is happy to live on a pittance and then go on hunger strike, the importance of such details can, it seems, easily be missed.

At over two hours long, the movie occasionally verges on repetition. Levinson, back on form after several also-rans, maintains the pace with intelligent humour and inventive cinematography. "You understand what prison is?" Judge Jessica Copper asks Kevorkian, who seems oblivious of the potential consequences of his actions. "Did you see The Shawshank Redemption, Sir?" During the hunger strike, a fast montage of slamming doors and uneaten foodtrays makes an impression on our ears and eyes faster than any amount of words – and also provides a welcome change of tempo.

This is cinema of the unexpected. With subject matter that should have been unbankably inauspicious. Yet You Don't Know Jack triumphs to take your breath away. Even without a plastic hood.
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Great Movie and Even greater Performance
Abir-Xtreme17 September 2010
"You don't know jack" is one of the greatest movie of 2010. It Shows the life of Jack Kevorkian. If you remember the 90s than you should have a picture of Dr Jack Kevorkian in your mind. He was just as famous as any movie star. He was the daily subject of medical discussion, The Movie Shows what truly was the intention of Dr Jack Kevorkian and how he released countless people from their misery. Barry Levinson directed the movie amazingly, and as for the performance Every one performed excellent. But Al Pacino Truly stole the show, he proved why he is considered the greatest of all time by many. He lost over 20 pounds for this movie and developed a physique so different than what he originally posses. Its amazing that he was able to pull of such a physically demanding task at the age of 70. AL out did himself with each and every scene. John Goodman, Brenda Vaccaro, Danny Huston, Susan Sarandon, Cotter smith and Logan all did outstanding job in this Epic movie. You don't know jack has all the elements to keep a movie fan at the edge of their seats. If you haven't had the opportunity to see this amazing movie than i strongly suggest you see this movie and you will realize why its such a phenomenon.
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Quite a departure for Al
bobbobwhite5 May 2010
What a different role for Pacino! But, he was just as great and totally brilliant and believable in this quiet but driven, eccentric role as he usually is in his other roles where he furiously eats the scenery throughout.

I wasn't sure if his "Midwestern" accent was a Fargo caricature or if he was merely channeling Chief Dan George in Little Big Man, but it sure was interesting to hear an NYC Italian able to be so believable in his upper midwest accent that was located about 10 miles east of Minneapolis, or close thereabouts. Meryl Streep, move over.

The philosophy of this controversial subject is much more serious. America is so far behind the rest of the world in assisted suicide, as many countries now allow a person to die an assisted death for any reason, with no incurable illness or the like required. All it requires is a waiting period to be positive of the hard decision made. And here we are in the good old retarded USofA, still not allowing the dignified assisted death of terribly suffering and/or terminal souls who merely and quietly want nothing more disruptive than a personal, peaceful, and painless end to their agonizing day-to-day existence. (I totally agree with the rest of the world that it is as much or more an individual decision as is having an abortion and no political or religious entity should have any say in what a person makes up his mind to do in this matter. These intruding entities should not play any part at all in influencing and determining the right and wrong of it, as there is none to a rational thinker.)

All supporting roles were well done, with John Goodman bringing much needed comic relief at times to this achingly serious story. Brenda Vaccaro as the doc's conflicted sister and fellow death-with-dignity proponent Susan Sarandon were truly positive additions to the cast. Direction by the brilliant Barry Levinson was nonpariel and as good as his earlier Rain Man.

I truly hope this film moves the assisted death argument forward in America as it couldn't go any further backward, and more is the pity for that unevolved thinking.
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Taking Chances
gradyharp25 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Director Barry Levinson ('Diner', 'The Natural', 'Good Morning, Vietnam', 'Rain Man', 'Avalon', Bugsy', etc) has obviously taken a chance with his latest film YOU DON'T KNOW JACK, a cinematic evaluation of the notorious and controversial Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Detroit pathologist who upon retiring from his career felt compelled to create a manner for people suffering chronic disease, paralytic illness, chemotherapy failures, and those pleading to die with dignity to have a choice as to whether they by law must linger in misery or be given the opportunity to have a doctor assisted suicide. Whether or not viewers react positively or negatively to this film for HBO will probably be tainted with personal convictions about assisted suicide rather than whether the film is worthy or a diatribe. But that is the still ongoing dilemma of the topic raised by the elderly Armenian physician's choices or convictions and one that the film explores well.

As for the film itself, it is a tour de force of acting performances: Al Pacino transforms himself physically and technically to bring the personality of Jack Kevorkian to life. It is a role of so many fine nuances that demonstrates ho Pacino truly does inhabit the title of the film. This Kevorkian is shown to be a man driven to be an outspoken activists for human rights - especially the right to die. His sister Margo, played to perfection by Brenda Vacarro, is the lonely Jack's sole source of emotional support, while his old friend and hospital medic Neal Nicol (who technically assists Kevorkian) is made a three dimensional person by John Goodman. Another supporter is the Hemlock Society worker Janet Good, another fine role for Susan Sarandon, and Danny Huston (almost unrecognizable in a wig) is Jack's pro bono lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. The technique used by Kevorkian is to interview people who approach him pleading to end their lives (some have tried regular suicide attempts before), make a video of the patient and family requesting assisted suicide, be sure the family and patient are serious and ready and only then provide the service with a contraption loaded with sedative and KCL that is triggered by the patient. Many of the actual patients are reenacted by a cadre of fine actors in scenes of pleading that tug at the heart.

Kevorkian is placed on trial by the courts in Michigan and finally after 133 assisted suicides is sentenced to prison - but not until after frequent jailings accompanied by Kevorkian's hunger strikes have resulted in his being released due to the finesse of his lawyer. Though Kevorkian has a large number of people who feel he is a cruel serial killer, this film presents the more human side of a man motivated to provide an alternative to patients suffering the lingering agonies of medically approved slow deaths. There are several tender scenes in this film, but the one that is a triumph of writing and acting is a conversation between Sarandon and Pacino as to what happened in Jack's childhood that began the idea for his mission. If viewers can get past their personal issues with the subject, then they will be witness to a superb film and terrific acting that will likely lead to an Emmy for at least Pacino. Watch this and learn.

Grady Harp
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Tour de force acting by Pacino a must-see
brianberwyn19 May 2010
I've seen "You Don't Know Jack" twice now and will certainly watch it several times more with friends coming to watch my DVR HD recording of this HBO TV movie. It's not easy to watch the harrowing scenes of terminal patients in great distress. But with an outstandingly intelligent script, first-class cinematography and stellar performances by all the actors it becomes compelling viewing. Like Marion Cotillard's portrayal of Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose", Pacino's incredible performance will leave us with the feeling that he has indeed become Dr Kevorkian for us. His powerful acting gains pace as the movie progresses until the final dramatic courtroom scenes end the remarkable story of a pioneer eccentric's human rights obsession. While overtly sympathetic to Kevorkian, all sides of the arguments for or against assisted suicide are fairly presented and leave one thinking about the subject for days. In addition to Pacino's tour de force role I think that Barry Levinson's inspired direction brings this movie to masterpiece status. I hope it will be released on DVD soon so that a much wider audience can see it.
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Compelling TV
momsroo24 April 2010
Love him or hate him, agree or disagree with his stance on assisted suicide, Jack Kevorkian makes for good television. Detroit's "Dr. Death" is a polarizing force in medical ethics, a man who believes that a person's right to self-determination includes the right to decide when enough is enough.

Al Pacino is a dead-wringer for Kevorkian (pun intended), the son of Armenian immigrants who escaped the Turkish genocide. He passionately lives the edict that one must disobey laws one feels are immoral. For Kevorkian, that means helping the terminally ill end their suffering and die with dignity, at a time of their choosing, regardless of its cost to him.

HBO's docudrama shows Kevorkian at his best and worst, compassionate with those who ask for his help, acerbic to the point of viciousness with anyone he considers stupid. Kevorkian is not necessarily a nice man, but he is obdurate when it comes to his principles. We see him argue with prosecutors, walk out on court proceedings, lock horns with his attorney Geoffrey Fieger. Nothing sways him in his zeal for allowing individuals suffering from end-stage terminal illness to decide for themselves what—and when--it means to die with dignity.

The talented supporting cast includes big names like Susan Sarandon, Brenda Vaccaro, John Goodman, and Danny Huston, as well as a slew of less-known actors who portray Kevorkian's patients/victims with heartbreaking realism. Make no mistake, however; this is Pacino's show from start to finish. His physical resemblance to the real Kevorkian is uncanny. He rants, he rages, he cajoles, he sympathizes. He assists and he initiates. It is sometimes difficult to remember that we are watching a supremely talented actor and not the man he is portraying.

"You Don't Know Jack" clearly sides with Kevorkian's viewpoint. It does so, however without sensationalism, nor does it dismiss nor trivialize the opposing side. In other words, "You Don't Know Jack" does what television does best: It entertains while challenging viewers to engage in dialogue about a topic that truly matters.
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You Don't Know Jack Shows A Way Out ****
edwagreen24 April 2010
Al Pacino gives an absolutely superb, riveting performance in this 2010 HBO production of the biography of Jack Kevorkian.

While the subject matter is difficult to swallow, especially when the assisted suicides begin, the film is done is an exceptionally intelligent matter that focuses on what Kevorkian is attempting to do in his role as an angel of mercy to assist those suffering with terminal illnesses.

The first person who Kevorkian helped was an Alzheimer's patient. It was difficult to understand why he was doing this since the lady knew that the gardener would be there on Thursday to plant. As the other suicides progressed, you realized the situations that people truly face at the end of their horrible existences.

The film depicted what the far right would do in any effort to get after the good doctor. It also brought out that even with such a terrible ethical question pending, politics is never set far apart in the appearance of Michigan Gov. John Engler.

Susan Sarandon is excellent in the role of Pacino's aide who falls victim to a terminal illness. Brenda Vaccaro is equally good as Pacino's sister, a woman who believed in what he was doing but didn't have the sense to call a doctor when she was suffering a heart attack.

Naturally, the film is all Pacino's. He takes you down the road of justification to show you that he is on a mission. It's a great performance that probably will be rewarded at Emmy Time. Ms. Sarandon and Ms. Vaccaro may also warrant supporting nominations as well.
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" Man has no right to kill himself, that choice belongs to the District Attorney "
thinker169125 April 2010
Throughout the history of Mankind, there are a plethora of unique individuals who stand as giants as they have changed the world. Columbus, Gailieo, Copernicus, Darwin and Einstein, have all fought a prevailing notion of a given era. To this famous list one can add the dedicated Dr. Jack Kavorkian. Born May 26, 1928 is an American pathologist, right-to-die activist and painter. His life is the center of this movie called " You don't know Jack. " Al Pacino, who bears an astonish resemblance, plays Dr. Jack Kevorkian and does an incredible job. Other notable thespians like Brenda Vaccaro, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman and Danny Huston all appear like towering pillars in a magnificent temple. Together their performance allows the audience to view the good doctor in his Herculeion task of establishing a man's right to die. Despite being ostracized, ridiculed, vilified, hounded and even imprisoned, Kavorkian continued and in the minds of millions of rational people, his struggle established the precedent for humans, not a puritanical government, to chose the time to die. Pacino's performance is exceptional and this movie will become a Classic for future audiences. Recommended to anyone willing to listen. ****
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A compelling, interesting, informative docudrama of Dr. Death in which you may find either dark or may cheer depending on your stance with euthanasia.
blanbrn25 April 2010
HBO for one has always been the champion and best king of all-time when it comes to showing original movies, and once again they delivered a gripping and touching docudrama that will long stand in memory. Al Pacino who is always brilliant delivers once again a stand up and cheer for performance(the same way he did with his last HBO work as right wing republican closeted homosexual attorney Roy Cohn who died of AIDS). Pacino who was made to look just like Dr. Jack! Captures the man's movements and actions just perfect and so wonderfully done is his take of Kevorkian's proper northern Michigan accent. Still at the same time Pacino plays this character with some mystery as clearly the role didn't call for any showing off.

Directed by Barry Levinson(who did the award winning 1988 "Rain Man")this is a film in my opinion was a Dr. Jack against the world attitude. As clearly while watching this docudrama which is blended in with some real life media interviews of Jack's like the ones with Mike Wallace and Barbara Walters you get the feel that this film is a good cultural flash of somewhat of a media circus. Still most telling is the stubbornness of Jack as his desire to provide alternative deaths for the terminally ill outweighs anything else the films shows.

It starts in the early 1990's in Michigan as Dr. Jack Kevorkian(Al Pacino)who's bored and living like a lonely hermit with his creepy art drawings and enjoyment of watching Bugs and Tweety cartoons. All of a sudden Jack has an ideal to take the medical community by storm should I say a death storm, he wants to start assisted suicides to the sick and terminally ill and also for those who don't want to live no more. Dr. Jack is aided and supported by his sister Margo(Brenda Vaccaro)and buddy Neal(John Goodman)and enter the outspoken advocate Susan Sarandon who plays euthanasia crusader and right to die advocate Janet Good.

Along the way in a compelling and gripping fashion Kevorkian and his friends carry out death after death of those with terminal cancer, MS, the crippled, the depressed and many others who have deadly diseases. And along the way this man who feels so passionate about it he even records speeches and the actual passing away of his victims. One by one "Dr Death" gets America's attention which stirs up controversy in Michigan from the religious right and state politicians and county legislatures. Gradually the film drifts into more of a courtroom drama asking what is morally right or wrong? It's interesting and entertaining to see an old fart fight stubbornly till the age of 79.

So no matter your take on euthanasia(even though this film is pro argument for it)"You Don't Know Jack" is a lovable story that is sold wonderful from the great performances especially Al's who's right on the money and believable as "Dr. Death". It's really a great biography that educated us about the life and stubbornness of Jack Kevorkian, while at the same time an interesting, compelling and dark outspoken anti-hero docudrama that makes some want to feel grim and others want to cheer depending on what side of the aisle they take on the issue. A must see film that's controversial, historical and cultural.
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Al Pacino's Great Acting Brightens This Controversial Biography
holyspiritdriven4 January 2011
When I first saw the HBO logo at the beginning I thought "crap this a made-for-TV movie?" I was pleasantly surprised by the cinematography & absolutely blown away by Al Pacino's portrayal of Jack Kevorkian. The subject matter weighs the movie down, however, and no matter what side of the controversy you find yourself on, the scenario is grave. Though I personally haven't decided whether euthanasia is morally right or wrong, You Don't Know Jack will had me rooting for Kevorkian as I was taken alongside him in his thinking and what seems to me, to a genuine empathy for his "patients". After you see this film, you will "know Jack" and it just might change what you thought of him or even what you thought about euthanasia.
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what an excellent film
monty_istanbul26 April 2010
Excellence! What a great production! All the way with the acting,writing,directing,cinematography,music and editing.All superb. I'm just happy how compalling and how well-thought this movie was. It takes you to a man's story about life and death and how it all goes down when the life turns its back on people and how different people respond to them. The thing that really captivated me was that how people's reactions and choices differed from each other in this movie.It reminded me of all the same things that are happening around me.Wel...I've never been a big Pacino fan but wrong was i! What else to say?! It's just great.Please see it.
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Don't Let the "Made For TV" Fool You
gavin694223 January 2011
Confession: I have long been a fan of Jack Kevorkian, and believed in his cause. Yes, he does walk a thin line at times, and raises some ethical issues, but his general point always seemed sound to me.

Here is the first film on his life (at least the part that we care about) that merits watching. It tells the whole story, does it very effectively, and gives us one of the best Al Pacino roles in years. Also, we learn more about his friend Neil and his attorney, both of whom were always played down in the news.

Although the film runs a bit on the long side, and could possibly be trimmed by ten minutes, I really enjoyed it. Pacino should be proud, and Kevorkian himself could ask of no greater portrayal of his work.
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Doctor Sleep
Prismark1022 January 2019
At the height of his infamy, Jack Kevorkian was called 'Doctor Death' on the cover of Time magazine.

You Don't Know Jack stars Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian. A pathologist and supporter of euthanasia.

Frustrated by the suffering faced by the elderly and the terminally ill. He argued that those who had their life support machines switched off faced a slow agonising death where they were starved to death.

Kevorkian invented a Thanatron machine. A device consisting of tranquilizers, sedatives and poisons pumped into his patients that wanted to die. Assisting him were his friend Neal (John Goodman) or his sister Margo (Brenda Vaccaro.)

It is said that Kevorkian assisted in the suicides of over 130 patients. The state of Michigan did not take his activities lying down. Kevorkian was tried four times for assisting suicides and was acquitted by a jury three times, with a mistrial declared on one occasion. His dogged lawyer Geoffrey Fieger (Danny Huston) did his utmost to keep him out of jail and seem to enjoy the publicity himself.

Director Barry Levinson made this film for cable television. However he treats this like a provocative documentary drama, a film to arouse debate. Pacino shows Jack Kevorkian as uncompromising, determined and rough around the edges. A fiery man who can easily fall out with friends and relatives. He appears to be a hard man to like.

The film might be a little too sympathetic to Kevorkian. The people against him are painted as the usual religious right to life mob. Maybe a more intelligent counter-argument should had been made against his views.
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Blockbuster Powerhouse Performances
chicagopoetry26 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Seriously. What's You Don't Know Jack Doing on TV? It should get a chance on a the big screen. With dynamo performances by Al Pacino (in his best role in a decade), John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and a performance worthy of an Academy Award Supporting Actress award by Brenda Vaccaro as Jack Kevorkian's sister, this is one hot piece of cinema. The direction and production value are also top notch in this disturbing true story that will leave you debating in your own mind. Is it a story about a serial killer or is it a story about compassion? Al Pacino is truly superb. He hasn't been this into his character since Scent of a Woman. This is a great film. If you enjoy big character driven biopics with memorable performances this will be your lethal injection, uh, I mean cup of tea.
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Cannot be reviewed without...
A_Different_Drummer12 October 2014
This is one of those rare hi-impact, makes-you-squirm-while-watching films that cannot be reviewed on its own without commenting on the underlying social issues. So here we go:


Directed by Barry Levinson (one of the top directors of the last century) and starring one of the top actors of the last century giving one of the best performances of his career (understated and self-aware, NOT the over-the-top Pacino we have come to expect) ... was there ever any doubt? The only oddity that this reviewer found is that Pacino's agency still uses 40-year-old photos of him in their PR kits, so a novice (think, alien film reviewer from another planet) looking at this film for the first time might spend the length of the film trying to find the lead actor identified in the kit ... and never locate him.

Brilliant, touching, revealing, and horrifying. In other words, a perfect reflection of what passes for intelligent civilization in our world.


For the first time, the script makes it clear that the lawyers acting for the state TOOK IT AS A PERSONAL AFFRONT that Dr. K was so forthright about what he had done ... and why ... and MADE IT THEIR PERSONAL MISSION to bring him down ... and USED A TECHNICALITY IN THE LAW (adjusting the indictment to a one narrow charge, a charge which could not be defended by a full look at the surrounding facts, as one might otherwise expect in a capital case).

Which pretty much summarizes how our Justice system works. Forget the theories they teach in law school, forget the statue of the lady with the blindfold over her eyes, when they REALLY WANT TO GET YOU, they are going to get you.
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What's with the Minnesota accents???
andrewhlewis30 January 2019
I grew up in Jacks neck of the woods and they have botched the Lower Michigan accent and especially Kevorkian's accent. Pacino and a few other actors put on pretty thick Northern Michigan/Northern Wisconsin/Minnesota accent which Jack did not have. He was born raised and educated in Pontiac where the accent the standard for broadcast. I was so bothered by this I couldn't finish the story, one I knew well.
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Add this non-fiction character portrait to Pacino's gallery of outstanding dramatic performances
moonspinner5524 December 2016
Al Pacino has done it again, not only fully inhabiting a real-life character we knew from TV reports but also investing his portrayal with late-life bravado, amusing eccentricity and stubbornness, and a caring and sensitivity towards the sick that must be present in order to understand the man once dubbed by the media as "Doctor Death," Jack Kevorkian. In the early 1990s, Kevorkian, a retired pathologist born to Armenian immigrant parents and situated in Michigan, assists in the suicide of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a woman who was lucid long enough to express her wish to die with dignity. A proponent on the ethics of euthanasia, the doctor--with the help of his housemate, his loyal sister, his lawyer (whom his sister discovered in a TV commercial) and a right-to-die advocate--would go on to fight endless battles against the legal system in order to keep assisting terminally-ill patients in their right to die, despite being surrounded himself by the deaths of colleagues and family. Although lengthy, this HBO presentation is masterfully written by Adam Mazer, who based his teleplay in part on Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie's book, "Between the Dying and the Dead", and beautifully directed by Barry Levinson, who shows a keen eye for small details, but isn't fussy about them (he doesn't linger over his points, which is in keeping with the personality of his story's champion). Terrific supporting performances by John Goodman, Brenda Vaccaro, Danny Huston and Susan Sarandon compliment Pacino's sterling work, while the film manages to be a testament to the human heart as well as an evocative document of our times.
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more about Jack
SnoopyStyle29 September 2016
Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) is the Michigan doctor who started assisted-suicide with his sister Brenda Vaccaro (Margo Janus) and his friend Neal Nicol (John Goodman). He encounters political opposition and charged in court. He is helped by Janet Good (Susan Sarandon) who leads a support group and lawyer Geoffrey Fieger (Danny Huston). He is a child of Armenian genocide survivors.

It's a good biopic by director Barry Levinson. Pacino is masterful. The title "You Don't Know Jack" is accusational and suggests a more in-depth psychological examination of the man. There is nothing wrong with this but it doesn't dig that deep into his origins. The most insightful scene is a passing conversation between Janet and Brenda about the Kevorkian parents. It would have been a great addition to have them talk to a child Jack about the death and destruction of the genocide. It would be a great pairing with his rantings about the Nazis. It needs some tying together.
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Now You Know Jack!
terminatorjenkins25 October 2011
"You Don't Know Jack" sheds a lot of positive light on Dr. Death ala Jack Kevorkian and his infamous life involved with assisting people in suicide. I do not know how much of the light he deserved, but the movie makes him very interesting and out to be quite the humanitarian. A movie that makes you want to go learn! Al Pacino is deserving of every award they want to hand him for this one. His performance was fully engaging, he became a character aside from the character that Al Pacino himself seems to be.

As serious as the movie subject matter is: death along with the moral and legal trouble the good Dr. finds himself in, there is a lot of humor to be found, and it is in this that I felt the movie really portrayed what it is to be human and real.

My biggest gripe with the movie is that for the first some-odd minutes of the movie I did not know jack about what was going on. I don't know if the editor is to blame, or lack of footage, or what, but the movie was very disjointed before settling in. I am lucky I stuck it out because I really connected with "You Don't Know Jack."
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Doctor Jack
jotix1004 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Dr. Jack Kevorkian experienced the horrible end of his long suffering mother. That event triggered in him a desire to empower patients facing a losing battle with their own fatal illnesses. As such, the idea of euthanasia, that has been practiced in some European countries, appealed to him to the point that it consumed the fabric of his soul trying to do the right thing for the patients that had no hope of ever getting better.

With the help of his sister, Margo, he began the research that propelled him into one of the most hated persons in America. Dr. Kevorkian, with the help of friends, invented a crude device that patients wanting to put an end to their lives were able to use, under his supervision. Thus began his legacy, admired by people that saw a way to decide their fate, instead of relying in what they perceived was an interference from doctors who wanted to prolong their pain without giving them a solution that would make them feel better.

At the same time, there was a movement of people that were horrified by the furor that the media fueled in the general public. No one was more opposed to what Dr. Kevorkian was doing than Dick Thompson, Michigan's D.A., who fought with all his might to have the doctor stop his crusade of death, as he saw it. Fortunately for Kevorkian, he found a friend, and ally in Geoff Fieger, an attorney that fought the system to help the man he thought was doing good, rather than evil.

Dr. Kevorkian brought out a lot of interesting points about the interference of religion with a lot of practical discoveries, like the case of ether, whose usage was stopped because of ignorance, rather than by anything else. The fight against the fanatics that opposed him took a big toll in his life. The only mistake Dr. Kevorkian made was with in assisting Mr. Youk by injecting the fatal dose himself, something that he had avoided up to that case, making the patients do it themselves using the method he had devised.

Barry Levinson directed this HBO made for television program from Dr. Kevorkian's point of view. Audiences might feel it was a one sided way to glorify the doctor. However, there are a lot of valid ideas that reveal the character of the man with no fears whose only wish was to help those that up to this point were helpless in the way they were treated by the medical science that had failed them. The film has a grainy quality to it, perhaps to give the material a feel of watching old newscasts.

The main reason for watching "You Don't Know Jack" is Al Pacino. The actor gives an inspired and controlled performance, no doubt because of the guidance from Mr. Levinson, an astute director. It is hard, at times, to differentiate between the actor and the real man we all got to know for being in the news almost on a daily basis. The supporting cast is excellent. Brenda Vaccaro is seen as Margo Janus, Kevorkian's sister. Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Dick Thompson and an unrecognizable Danny Huston, add luster to this film.

The film does not take sides, although it is clear the Adam Mazer, the writer of the film was clearly impressed by his subject. Eigil Bryld cinematography gives the viewer a look of the events as it happened at the time. Marcelo Zarvos' music score works well in the film.
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Al Pacino is the obvious highlight
mrwickedproductions4 July 2013
Al Pacino is great at what he does, and with age, he has only become better at his role as the defeated man of stubborn reasoning. Like in many of his previous films (such as The Son of No One and Insomnia), Al Pacino is the obvious highlight. His captivating acting and eccentric personas are enough to push ratings up a whole level. In the case of You Don't Know Jack, Al Pacino doesn't lift up a terrible movie to become bearable, but a good movie to become great. While the film may have very depressing tones (it's about assisted suicide after all), it doesn't mean that it lacks entertainment value in any way.

Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) is nicknamed the "doctor of death" for his involvement in many assisted suicide cases. His sister (Brenda Vaccaro), Neal Nicol (John Goodman), Janet Good (Susan Sarandon), and his lawyer (Geoffrey Fieger), help him avoid the law as he aids people who are in too much pain to continue living. The film sends a strong, legal message about how people should have the right to choose whether or not they want to pull their own plug. The message gets you thinking about your own life and the people you care about, which easily makes the film a lot more of a personal experience than one might expect.

The entertainment values that are to be expected from this TV film are along the lines of an educational journey and heart wrenching acting. Al Pacino sells his role very well, as if he himself is advocating for the rights. Also, his slight Midwestern accent is compelling to see. John Goodman's existence in the film relieves the overbearing darker moods and helps humanize Jack. The other supporting actors are all great additions to the cast as well.

The story may take a while to develop, but if you stick it out, you are sure to learn a thing or two.
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mgd_m14 September 2019
As a movie, it's boring. As a story, it glorifies a questionable man and deals with a sensitive theme without any delicacy. The benefit of the doubt about the morality of Kevorkian's actions is gone with patient number 1: no way she was terminal, she was just diagnosed with Alzhaimer and still very fine. Secondly, the closing speech of the judge is all you have to know about how law works in a civil society. This movie is a despicable piece of political propaganda, rather than a well-rounded presentation of the theme of euthanasia.
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davidtraversa-124 November 2010
Yesterday night I saw this movie. Way ahead of its ending, I was in the certainty of watching a masterpiece.

This movie IS a masterpiece.

I read almost all the other commentaries and it's impossible to add anything new to them.

All eulogies had been extolled.

Al Pacino was sublime --I found him to be sublime in "The Merchant of Venice" too-- and so were all the other actors in that cast.


We should speak more often about this issue, an issue that we refuse to face, when every human being, the same way he was born, he will have to die.

And death, in most cases, will be horribly painful: cancer, car accidents, crime, a thousand kinds of deaths, none of them pleasant.

Why then, such resistance to plain and inevitable facts? it seems that in the USA there is a certain segment (religious fanatics), that oppose anything pertaining to sex or, in this case, death.

Their blindness is fearsome.

Just by watching the videos of terminally ill people (within this movie), people with no quality whatsoever of life, it's impossible to deny them their right to take their own life.

It's marvelous when one of this fanatics screams at Dr. Kavorkian: Do you believe in God? "Yes--he says-- my God is Johann Sebastian Bach, and he wasn't invented". Chapeau!

See this fantastically superb movie, open your brains and absorb its wisdom. We all need it, because that day will come to all of us and at that point we'll wish to be left alone and die the way we have decided to die.
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The choice is yours
SlyGuy2114 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It's no surprise that Jack was a controversial figure, he had a different mindset from the majority of society in a time still shrouded in old superstition. You could call him a lot of things, (I know the media sure did) but I choose to call him an activist. I don't want to use the word "martyr" because to me that implies that he put himself on a pedestal. It's interesting how in the next 40 years or so, what Jack set into motion could be realized, if not at least advanced somewhat. I guess you could say this is one-sided, but to me, the only side is Jack's. I'm not saying that opposition to euthanasia is dumb or stupid or anything like that, but put yourself in these patient's shoes. Would you want to have constant pain as the result of an illness until you died? I wouldn't. Would you want to slowly forget everything you've ever known and loved, and then die? I wouldn't. I know that the opposition has it's roots based in religion and "playing God", but beings I don't believe in God, that argument isn't valid to me. The politics aside though, this movie is very well acted, very well shot, and a very good story, give it a try, it might even open your eyes or introduce you to a new viewpoint.
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