The Jackal

Some things in life bear repeating: A beautiful day; a good beer; A Charlie Brown Christmas Special; great sex; your favorite CD; winning the lottery.


Some things in life don t: Bad lasagna; the first half of a Dodger season; bad sex; A Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special; a porcupine suppository. What is Hollywood s fascination with taking old movies and remaking them? Great films become classics, and should not be tampered with.

Bad films are just that, and shouldn’t t excite brain dead filmmakers who can t come up with an original idea on their own. Director Fred Zinnemann created a classic of espionage and suspense in The Day of the Jackal, a 1973 thriller about an assassination attempt on General Charles de Gaulle. Working from a tight, calculated screenplay by Kenneth Ross, based on the novel by Frederick Forsythe, Zinnemann delivered a film that kept audiences on the edge of their seats.

Whatever possessed director Michael Caton -Jones and writer Chuck Pfarrer to make them believe that they could improve on Zinnemann s effort? To complicate matters even more, the filmmakers don t even credit the novel by Forsythe. They claim their film is based on the script penned by Ross. Forsythe is obviously the real winner here. The Jackal is a lifeless mess that meanders more than it entertains. There s no suspense and little life in this modern day tale of a professional assassin so good that no one even knows what he looks like.

Well, he looks an awful lot like Bruce Willis, who dons several disguises to evade his pursuers. The Jackal has been hired by a Russian mobster to take out the First Lady of the United States as retaliation for the murder of his brother. You know the Russian mobster is a bad guy when he drives an ancient axe into the head of one of his assistants when he fails to give the correct Final Jeopardy answer. The United States is represented by FBI agent Preston, played by Sidney Poitier .

He s assisted by Russian agent Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora , the only visible sign of life in this film). In order to catch a jackal, the FBI realizes they need someone who lives and breathes on the same level. They turn to imprisoned IRA terrorist Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere ), the only person who can identify the jackal. So now we have two nut cases running the asylum, except that Mulqueen gives his word that he ll behave and help save the day.

God knows we can take IRA terrorists on their word. The film eventually boils down to a cat-and-mouse chase that treks across the world and across the United States, but to little avail. Pfarrer s screenplay is slow and dim-witted, and has holes large enough to drive Jim Carrey s ego through. For an assassin who s supposed to be virtually invisible, the Jackal sure makes some stupid choices, and leaves a trail so obvious that even the real FBI could follow it.

The Jackal doesn t bring anything new to the party, and in fact, actually serves as the turd in the punch bowl. You expect a healthy serving of suspense and intrigue, and all you get is flotilla.

JACKAL LANTERN BURNS OUT

[THE JACKAL

Bruce Willis, Richard Gere , Sidney Poitier , Diane Venora , Mathilda May in a film directed by Michael Caton -Jones. Rated R. 122 Min.

LARSEN RATING: $2]



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