The Jackal (1997)

How do you stop an assassin who has no identity?

Hired by a powerful member of the Russian mafia to avenge an FBI sting that left his brother dead, a psychopathic hitman known only as The Jackal proves an elusive target for the people charged with the task of bringing him down: a deputy FBI director, a Russian MVK Major, and a jailed IRA terrorist who can recognize him.

Globetrotting pursuit of a master-of-disguise assassin
RELEASED IN 1997 and directed by Michael Caton-Jones, "The Jackal” is an international crime thriller about a joint FBI/MVD mission (led by Sidney Poitier and Diane Venora) that enlists the aid of an imprisoned IRA combatant (Richard Gere) to stop a brutal master-of-disguise assassin known as The Jackal (Bruce Willis) from completing a big hit in Washington DC. This was a loose remake of the film “The Day of the Jackal” (1973), which was based on the 1971 novel by Frederick Forsyth.
The first act is too convoluted for my tastes as the story globetrots from Moscow to Helsinki to Canada to the USA. But the movie finds its footing and settles into an entertaining political action flick not far removed from the tone of “The Saint” with Val Kilmer, released the same year. Both films are from the same genre, have the same tone, were made for the same amount ($60 million), feature an antagonist who’s a master-of-disguise and are named after that person. While both movies made roughly the same in North America ($55-60 million), “The Jackal” proved more popular worldwide, making almost $160 million, which was $50 million more than “The Saint.” IMHO “The Jackal” is the more all-around entertaining picture.
Critics love to lambaste this movie because (1.) it deviates too much from the original film and (2.) because of the mounting nonsensical elements. But (1.) “The Jackal” was made to stand on its own in late 90’s cinema and (2.) why do other action thrillers like James Bond get a pass when it comes to ridiculous plot holes? Besides, many of the supposed nonsensical moments can easily be cleared up if you pay attention to the details; not all of them, of course, but many of them.
What I don’t like is the disingenuousness of many of the criticisms. For instance, Roger Ebert’s opening criticism of the film was to mock the way The Jackal sneaks into the USA from Canada by purchasing a sailboat and entering a race from Mackinaw to Chicago. Ebert reasoned that there are easier ways to enter the US inconspicuously along the 3000-mile border, but he left out an important detail: The Jackal was smuggling a huge computerized machine gun and its formidable mount. THAT is why he bought the yacht and used the race as a means to enter the country unnoticeably amidst a crowd of other crafts. Aduh.
One of the best aspects of this flick is the great cast and seeing them work together. Poitier was 69 during filming and looks very distinguished; this was incidentally his last theatrical release (although he appeared in four TV movies in the ensuing four years). Jack Black is effective in a peripheral role tailor-made for him.
But it’s Gere and Willis who steal the show, naturally. The latter is particularly entertaining in an almost shocking departure from his typical easy-going, friendly persona. As The Jackal, Willis is relaxed, carefree, cold, malicious, cunning, calculating, smart, icy and ruthless; a charming psychopath.
I shouldn't close without mentioning the excellent score by Carter Burwell mixed with an edgy alternative rock soundtrack, featuring cuts by Massive Attack ("Superpredators" and "Dissolved Girl") and the like.
THE MOVIE RUNS 2 hour, 4 minutes and was shot in Moscow, Finland, Montreal, London, the Carolinas, Virginia and Chicago. SCREENPLAY: Chuck Pfarrer.
GRADE: B-/C+

Mel's Cite du Cinema, Universal Pictures, Mutual Film Company, Alphaville Films, Tele München Fernseh Produktionsgesellschaft (TMG), UGC PH, Marubeni, Toho-Towa, BBC by Michael Caton-Jones, Kenneth Ross, Chuck Pfarrer.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora.

Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Keywords: fbi cold war hitman

11/14/1997

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