Posing as a handsome, gay professional that master of disguises,
the Jackal, hits on a young government official. After some boozy
flirting, the Jackal plants a pair of big kisses on him, gets the guy's
business card and leaves, promising to call him sometime. The card and
the contact are part of the Jackal's elaborate assassination scheme.
He's collecting all the necessary materials for the big day.
Bruce Willis, one of our most uneven actors, gives a terrific
performance this time as that shadowy figure known as the Jackal. At
first even the FBI is not sure whether the Jackal is a real person or
just a myth. With a new identity and look every five minutes in the
picture, it is no wonder that the Jackal has remained so elusive.
Although the new movie THE JACKAL by ROB ROY's director Michael
Caton-Jones acknowledges Kenneth Roth's screenplay for THE DAY OF THE
JACKAL in the credits, it shares little of the story. Both movies are
about assassinations of a political figural by a terrorist known as the
Jackal, but the similarities basically end there.
The story opens with a joint US and Russian police operation in
Moscow. A scar-faced Major Valentina Koslova, played with unwavering
intensity by Diane Venora from HEAT, kills one of the Russian Mafia
kingpins in a nightclub raid. This infuriates the dead man's brother,
who hires the Jackal to kill an important American in retaliation. All
we know of the target's identity is that the Jackal says he will have
to go into hiding forever after the kill and hence demands and receives
$70,000,000 as his fee with half payable upfront.
Sidney Poitier in one of his better recent performances plays FBI
Deputy Director Carter Preston. Preston teams up with Major Koslova to
track down the Jackal before he makes the big hit. As the sincere
ex-IRA hit man named Declan Mulqueen, Richard Gere manages to keep his
Irish accent consistent and believable. Mulqueen is temporarily
released from prison to help Koslova and Preston track down the Jackal
since Mulqueen is one of two living people known to have ever seen the
Jackal. Although Gere slightly underplays an already underwritten
role, he gives a quite credible performance.
The problems with the movie almost undermine it on several
occasions. The script heaps several unnecessary leaps of faith on the
audience, most surrounding the lack of seriousness American law
enforcement officers place on the threat of a major assassination.
More than once, when a place should be crawling with cops, Mulqueen has
to go mano a mano with the Jackal. And the well executed ending is
flawed by an illogical rabbit pulled out of a hat.
The director does not get the show's motor in gear for over half
an hour. After he does, he lets it slip into neutral too often in the
non-action scenes. In most thrillers, consider the television "Prime
Suspect" dramas, for example, the police's planning scenes are full of
tension and energy. In THE JACKAL, by contrast, there is a certain
ennui to the proceedings.
All of this notwithstanding, whenever Willis is on the screen, the
movie hums. The writing is smart in the way the Jackal creates his
disguises and switches back and forth seamlessly. The military
hardware he assembles for the kill and the stealthy way he transports
it is fascinating. Willis approaches his part with the serene
confidence of a killer who murders without hesitation.
Even though the assassination attempt is telegraphed from early
on, its execution will undoubtedly send chills up your spine. At THE
JACKAL's best, as it is in the last half hour, the movie has you on the
edge of your seat. The problem with the film is that too often you may
find yourself slumped back in your chair during the frequent slow
THE JACKAL runs a little under two hours. It is rated R for some
profanity and a few gory scenes. It would be fine for teenagers.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes