Daily Archives: August 18, 2014

The Jackal (1997)


*. “Based on the motion picture screenplay The Day of the Jackal by Kenneth Ross.” No mention of Frederick Forsyth. Why not? Because he didn’t want anything to do with it. They also had to shorten the name because Zinnemann didn’t want people to think there was any connection to his movie either. This is not a good sign.
*. The basic idea here is still fine: the mysterious professional killer hired for a seemingly impossible high-profile hit. And I didn’t mind updating the British aristo to a suave corporate suit. But from there everything goes wrong.
*. The overriding problem is the script. The novel, and Zinnemann’s movie, were all about the killer’s precision craftsmanship. They were smart. But this movie is stupid.
*. Now there are a lot of very stupid movies out there, but when you take an intelligent project and make it seem this dumb you are courting disaster. It’s not like Godzilla being a stupid movie. You expect Godzilla to be stupid (maybe not as stupid as it is, but still stupid). Your expectations are higher here.
*. Roger Ebert: “The Jackal is based on the screenplay of Fred Zinnemann’s 1973 classic The Day of the Jackal. That was a film that impressed us with the depth of its expertise: We felt it knew exactly what it was talking about. The Jackal, on the other hand, impressed me with its absurdity. There was scarcely a second I could take seriously.”
*. Almost every plot point in the film is absurd. Why, for example, does the Jackal make such a messy job of killing Lamont and then not bother hiding the body? That’s not how Edward Fox handled the photographer. Then, after he’s done blowing Lamont to pieces, why does he not grab the blueprints for the gun mount, which is what he wanted Lamont to give him in the first place?
*. Another one: Why does the Jackal disguise himself as a cop at the hospital opening? What advantage does that give him? Wouldn’t he blend in more without the uniform? Wouldn’t it be likely that other officers of the city police force would fail to recognize him and be suspicious?
*. Instead of a chess game between the killer and the detectives the plot unwinds through a series of gigantic leaps of intuition and crazy improbabilities. Why would the Jackal bother going after Isabella? And then leave a clue behind for Declen to follow up on?
*. Who are the hijackers after the Jackal? What do they want to hijack? What happens to them?
*. How on earth does the Jackal shoot up the marina in broad daylight and then just drive away?
*. When the authorities find out that the Jackal is after the first lady (a huge leap made by Richard Gere), the idea is floated that they, you know, get her off the podium. But no! According to Declen that would just lead to the Jackal shooting into the crowd. Huh? Why?
*. I could go on and on with these questions. Nothing in this film makes any sense. Bruce Willis isn’t bad as the Jackal, but it’s not enough that he’s a stone cold killer when he’s being undercut at every turn and made to seem a moron.
*. I do like that giant gun. But isn’t it overkill for the job? Why not just use a rocket launcher and be sure of the kill?
*. It’s funny how Sidney Poitier pronounces On-tah-rio.
*. There was no point in introducing useless extra characters like Major Koslova, or even Isabella. There was more than enough plot in the original to fill out two hours, so why bring these people in? And how awkward is it that Isabella is married now and has a family, whom she still loves “in my way.” What way is that? Is she letting Declen know that she’s still available?
*. Needless to say her sudden appearance at the end is absurd. But enough already. Criticism is wasted on nonsense.