The Jackal - *

The Jackal

The Jackal is a sloppy, sloppy thriller (and not in terms of blood and gore). Characters get tangled, the plots vanish without a trace, and even the action sequences seem second-hand. After the FBI assists the Russian government pin a murder on the son of a powerful crime lord, vengeance is sworn. The crime lord calls in the services of “The Jackal” (Bruce Willis), a mysterious assassin with a hefty price tag and a penchant for secrecy.

He’s so secret, that the FBI has no idea what he looks like, or who he is, but they suspect he’ll be gunning for the head of the FBI. Pooling the resources of both countries, FBI man Preston (Sidney Poitier) is assisted the the Russian Major Koslova (Diane Venora) to track down the killer. Only one person is their tenuous link to The Jackal, a retired Basque terrorist (Mathilda May), whose whereabouts are also unknown.

Therefore, the task force tracks down the woman’s former lover, imprisoned IRA sharpshooter Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere). Declan refuses to give away her whereabouts, but claims to have knowledge of The Jackal and his methods.

So, in one of many inexplicable decisions made in the movie, Preston decides to trust Declan. Not with suspicion, or even much hesitation considering his past and current status as a prisoner. No, Declan is made a full part of the team and trusted completely. He’s even left alone for long stretches of time…and this is before they have any confirmation that he’s really ever met The Jackal!

Meanwhile, in a role that seems derivative of John Malkovich’s assassin in In the Line of Fire, yet without the personality, The Jackal zigzags his way across two countries, donning a new disguise for each scene. Well, actually in some scenes he has more than one disguise, which he changes halfway through… in public… I mean, are these the actions of a man trying to be inconspicuous?

At least we know he’s evil. He, along with his Russian employer (in a scene you might recall from The Untouchables), get to ruthlessly slaughter other “innocent” bad guys as the coup de grace to show they are eviler than evil. I guess this is done to justify having a terrorist as the good guy.

Anyhow, the filmmakers must get confused here and there due to The Jackal’s frequent identity swaps. In the confusion, several subplots are muddled or lost completely (What’s the deal with the hijackers?).

There are a couple of scenes in The Jackal that are somewhat fun to watch, but they aren’t nearly as thrilling as the original movies that they were cribbed from. With strong direction and a better script, The Jackal could have been a decent thriller, but director Michael Caton-Jones doesn’t deliver, and a hideous script make this one to miss.

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