Saturday 28 September 2019

Movie Review: The Jackal (1997)

An assassination thriller, The Jackal features big star names in all the wrong roles and a plot filled with mammoth holes.

In Moscow, a joint operation between internal security services MVD and the FBI results in the death of a notorious mobster. In Helsinki, the dead man's brother Terek (David Hayman) promises revenge and hires an assassin known only as The Jackal (Bruce Willis) to kill a high profile American target. The FBI's Deputy Director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier) and MVD's Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) get wind of the contract and turn to imprisoned former IRA terrorist Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere) for help.

Mulqueen and his former girlfriend, ex-Basque militant Isabella Zancona (Mathilda May), have a history with The Jackal, and Mulqueen joins Preston and Koslova on the manhunt from Europe to Canada and into the United States. Meanwhile The Jackal procures a high powered weapon and uses numerous fake identities and forged documents to carefully plan his audacious assassination.

A wholly unnecessary re-imagining of 1973's The Day Of The Jackal, the 1997 version manages to make everything much worse. Bruce Willis is stripped of his charisma and is utterly boring as a cold-blooded killer. It does not seem possible but Richard Gere fares even worse, saddled with an Irish accent and never coming close to convincing as an ex-IRA killer. And at seventy years old Sidney Poitier does his best, but loses the battle to engage as a senior FBI agent huffing and puffing across the globe.

Despite the casting horror show The Jackal may have been salvageable with a decent script, but the story of a barely-defined mobster seeking revenge by targeting an unspecified target loses all momentum early. The character of Terek as chief instigator carries promising menace but disappears entirely from the film, and the Chuck Pfarrer screenplay makes the wrong call by investing absolutely nothing in the intended assassination victim. Any potential for tension or mounting danger is lost, and the film disintegrates into a series of disjointed, routine and often irrelevant set-pieces.

Of course Mulqueen, a convict and ex-terrorist, is given full access to the inner sanctums of the FBI and becomes chief investigator, primary clue-finder and next-step deducer, the rest of the bumbling FBI team either following his instructions or actively compromising the investigation. Director Michael-Caton Jones does manage to deliver a few half-decent action scenes, but The Jackal falls through holes of its own making and shoots itself in the foot for added impact.

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