Film reviews

Throwback 20: The Jackal

I have to be honest, until looking into the film to write this article, I had no idea that The Jackal was a remake of the classic film The Day of the Jackal. I know of the original film, I saw that they had similar titles, but it never occurred to me that they would be connected as the plots are so different.

I know now that at the time of the making of The Jackal people were upset, particularly those with a connection to The Day of the Jackal, and that some of this permeated the press and critics of the time, leading to some mixed reviews. But even as a remake of a beloved film it’s different enough and bold enough to stand on its own.

The plot centres around a hit-man known as The Jackal (Bruce Willis), who has been hired to kill the head of the FBI. With only one person able to positively identify The Jackal, the FBI and MVD recruit the former IRA sniper Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere) to be part of the hunt for the killer.

From here the story is split between the two leads, with Gere’s terrorist turned good-guy working alongside the deputy director of the FBI Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier) and MVD agent Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) to track down The Jackal, whilst we also get to see what the assassin is doing in his increasingly elaborate plot, switching from one identity and disguise to the next as he works his way down from Canada into the United States.

It’s this cat and mouse chase, jumping from one side of the plot to the other, that helps to make this an enjoyable experience, getting to not just see the good guys closing in on the villain, but actually getting to see first hand all of the things that he’s doing, rather than hearing about it later on. These story jumps also help to build tension as the hunt for the killer gets closer and closer, with the characters circling around each other more than once.

These scenes also help to show just how cold and sometimes downright evil The Jackal is, willing to kill anyone that gets in his way. Whilst not just showing us more of his character, these moments build the anticipation and tension for the few scenes where the villain actually comes face to face with the heroes, delivering some great action sequences; one of which actually claims the life of one of the three heroes.

The action sequences are well made, and the final fight does manage to stand out, with a running gunfight through the Washington DC subway system. The action sequences are something a little different from other action films. Yes, it’s slightly over the top, but manages to feel much more grounded and real than many others.

This is one of the beauties of The Jackal: it’s ridiculous and over the top, yet never reaches the level of ridiculousness that was common in action movies of the 80’s and 90’s. It is able to keep a sense of realism and reality that separates it from other action films of the time, such as Face/OffCon Air, and Starship Troopers.

However, the acting is the main thing that pushes the film to be something a little special, which is solid and competent throughout. Whilst the film does have some big names and instantly recognisable stars in the cast, such as Willis, Gere, and Poitier, it’s easily Diane Venora who steals the film with her subtle yet memorable performance, especially in her fatal confrontation with The Jackal.

Often overlooked due to the sheer fact that it is a remake of a ‘classic’ film, The Jackal is a very strong, capable action thriller with a big name cast, some good cinematography, and competent action sequences.

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