MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Jackal" Review


MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Jackal" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes
Release Date: November 14, 1997
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Genre: Action, Crime

Every action star has at least one film that he looks back on with a smile, and "The Jackal" might be that film for Bruce Willis. As he bounces from one disguise to the next, viewers never know quite what to expect.

Willis plays a character known only as The Jackal. He is the type of man who can blend into a crowd and move through a city without anyone noticing him. When the FBI and the MDV begin working together on an upcoming case, they discover that The Jackal is on the move and that he might take out the man they need. FBI Director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner") discovers that there is one person in the world who might know the identity of The Jackal.

Preston calls in Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere, "Runaway Bride"), a retired sniper who fell in love with a terrorist while working on assignment. Mulqueen and Preston think that the terrorist, Isabella, once saw The Jackal with her own eyes. Though Preston just wants to get the job done, Mulqueen wants to bring down the man because of a personal vendetta. During a confrontation years ago, Isabella suffered a miscarriage, which Mulqueen blames on the stranger. Mulqueen is desperate to find the man who ruined his life, but he quickly discovers that it's not easy to track down a man who makes a living by hiding in the shadows.

Willis is one of the top action stars in the world, and it's clear that he has a lot of fun with his role in "The Jackal." His goofy and sometimes over-the-top disguises are reminiscent of those worn by Val Kilmer in "The Saint," but he does a far better job of pulling off those disguises. In one of his earliest scenes, he wears a pair of dark glasses and a padded stomach to play a nerdy deliveryman, and in another scene, he heads out dressed as a fisherman.

Every time Willis slips into another disguise, he slips into a completely new and different character. It's hard enough for most actors to find inspiration for one role, but Willis manages to breathe new life into every character he plays in the film. Even when he wears a fake ponytail and talks with a European accent, he does a great job of showing the character as a real person. It's easy for viewers to believe that he can wander around the world and encounter thousands of people without anyone knowing his real identity.

While Willis is entertaining in the title role, some viewers might wish he would settle down a little. The film quickly jumps around, showing the actor in a variety of different costumes and disguises, which can be disconcerting at times. It seems like the producers had the same problem, because Willis occasionally switches disguises without any explanation. For example, after meeting a man at a nightclub and going home with him, he inexplicably shows up in a completely different costume.

Oscar-winner Sidney Poitier comes across as the strongest actor in the film. Despite a long career that spanned several decades, he seemingly retired after this film, which makes his work even more impressive. Watching him bark orders and take up arms to protect his country, it's hard to believe that he no longer acts. Gere portrays one of the main actors in the film, but he sometimes comes across as a little forgettable. Mulqueen is a tough Irish sniper, and Gere cannot handle the role. Though he does manage to pull off the foreign accent, he always seems a little too upbeat and cheerful. It's hard to buy him as a man who witnessed the effects of war firsthand or a man who is heartbroken by the loss of his child and girlfriend.

It almost doesn't matter what Gere does in the film, because "The Jackal" is all about Willis. He is such an integral part of the film that, when he isn't onscreen, viewers will find themselves hoping that he will come back soon. He brings a lightness to some of his scenes, and that lightness helps balance the darkness and grittiness of the film. Director Caton-Jones doesn't shy away from scenes of violence and mayhem. In one intense scene, the First Lady finds herself under fire while trying to dedicate a new hospital, but the film is full of those scenes. Those who want to see an intense action thriller that stars Willis at his best will appreciate "The Jackal." While it might not appeal to all action fans, it does have an interesting plot and some stellar acting.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars