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The Jackal

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Jackal

Starring: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Rated: R
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Mathilda May, Jack Black, Larry King

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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 interludes.

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

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