Main cast: Bruce Willis (The Jackal), Richard Gere (Declan Joseph Mulqueen), Sidney Poitier (FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston), Diane Venora (Major Valentina Koslova), Mathilda May (Isabella Celia Zancona), JK Simmons (FBI Agent Timothy I Witherspoon), Richard Lineback (Agent McMurphy), John Cunningham (FBI Director Donald Brown), Jack Black (Ian Lamont), and Tess Harper (First Lady Emily Cowan)
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
One of the nice things about enjoying the hospitality of a, well, hospital is that there is little choice when it comes to what to watch on the TV they plonk into one’s room. I have to actually watch shows on a TV station, an actual TV station complete with annoying ad breaks every fifteen minutes or so, and a single cable channel full of ancient movies. That is how I come across The Jackal.
This is what seems like a remake of The Day of the Jackal, which in turn was based on Frederick Forsyth’s most famous novel of the same name. However, while this one retains some familiar elements from that movie as well as the source material, everything else is changed. Normally, I have no issues with people changing stuff in movie adaptations, provided that these changes enhance the movie experience, but here, the changes make The Jackal come off like an idiot. This is big step down from the book and the previous movie, which see the FBI stumbling around trying to catch an assassin that they only happen to know of by chance. Here, the FBI under the direction of Carter Preston enlists the aid of former IRA sniper Declan Mulqueen, who is currently in jail and he may be the only person that knows what the Jackal looks like. Naturally, Carter promises to help Declan get released in exchange for his help. Declan in turn reaches out to his ex-girlfriend Isabella, so we have basically a special ops team to take down the Jackal.
The Jackal, meantime, isn’t hired to destabilize the political situation of France; instead, he is hired to settle some petty vendetta of a mobster against the FBI that killed his brother in a sting operation. While this could still have made sense, the identity of the Jackal’s target doesn’t, so this entire plot ends up coming off like the movie trying to be different for the sake of being different, even if it ends up making little sense in the process.
The FBI team are perplexingly omnipotent, always catching up with the Jackal, even when the assassin is supposed to be the best of the best and our heroes supposedly knowing little of his identity or his plans. If they failed to catch the assassin half an hour into the movie, it’s because the script has the Jackal and the good guys taking turns to do colossally stupid things just to hold them back. For example, the Jackal, who is the best ever as I am constantly reminded throughout this movie, will kill some idiot and then leave the idiot out in the open with enough clues to let the FBI know what he is planning to do. He will also stupidly say things that expose his plans to his enemies. On the good guys’ side, they too will do stupid things that allow the Jackal to help prolong the movie by upstaging the good guys using the trail left out for him by these guys.
As a result, The Jackal feels like a movie cobbled together in a very amateurish manner, with the good and the bad guys upstaging one another only because the script dictates that one side will have to do something uncharacteristically dumb to let the other side temporarily get the better of them. This isn’t a good thriller as much as it is a race to see which moronic side will blunder the most and hand the win to the other side—all the while the movie telling me over and over how smart the Jackal is. I’m told that this is the case, but I am shown the complete opposite.
On the bright side, this otherwise tedious movie does offer some momentary distractions in the form of Richard Gere’s horrendous Irish accent and Bruce Willis’s ridiculously fake hair pieces.
I watched this one because there was really nothing else better to watch. Folks that do have the option to watch better things should do themselves a favor and skip this bungled mess of a thriller.