[Screen It]


(1997) (Bruce Willis, Richard Gere) (R)

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Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Suspense/Thriller: An F.B.I. official, a Russian intelligence officer, and a former IRA sharpshooter work together to track down and stop a chameleon-like assassin whose next target is a high- ranking U.S. government official.
F.B.I. deputy director Carter Preston (SIDNEY POITIER), and an experienced Russian intelligence officer, Valentina Koslova (DIANA VENORA), raid a Moscow nightclub where Koslova ends up killing a Russian gangster in self defense. That man's brother, Terek Murad (DAVID HAYMAN), another ruthless killer, wants revenge. So he hires the Jackal (BRUCE WILLIS), a renowned and chameleon-like assassin, to kill a high-ranking U.S. government official for a fee of seventy million dollars. Preston gets word of this, and he and others believe that Donald Brown (JOHN CUNNINGHAM), the head of the F.B.I., is the target.

Their problem lies in the fact that they don't know who the Jackal is, or what he may look like at any given moment. They do learn, however, that Isabella (MATHILDA MAY), a woman who's been in hiding for years, might know of this man. Thus they visit her former lover, Declan Mulqueen (RICHARD GERE), a former I.R.A. sharpshooter who's serving time in an American prison. Mulqueen just so happens also to know the assassin and has a personal vendetta against him. He agrees to help find the Jackal in exchange for Isabella's safety and a reduction in his prison time.

As Mulqueen, Preston and Koslova search for clues, the Jackal's plan continues to move forward. Using various disguises, the assassin purchases a large Gatling gun, and slowly makes his way to the United States and toward Washington, D.C., where his job will be completed. As Declan and the others close in on the Jackal, they race against time to find him and stop the assassination.

If they're fans of someone in the high-powered cast, they just might. Preteens, though, will have little or no interest in this film.
For strong violence and language.
  • BRUCE WILLIS plays a professional assassin who coldly kills many people.
  • RICHARD GERE is a former IRA sharpshooter who assists the F.B.I. only to help himself, but comes off as the hero by the film's end.
  • SIDNEY POITIER plays the F.B.I. deputy director who works hard to stop the Jackal.
  • DIANA VENORA plays a brave Russian officer who puts her life on the line to catch a criminal. She does smoke nonstop, however, throughout the film.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    This is a loosely based remake of the 1973 film, "The Day of the Jackal" (directed by Academy Award winning director Fred Zinnemann). In that film, relatively unknown actors filled a story in which an assassin is after French President Charles de Gaulle. This version is helmed by Michael Caton-Jones ("Rob Roy" "Doc Hollywood"), who went after some big stars for his remake, and the casting is superb. That word nearly sums up the movie experience as a whole, for despite some logic problems and errors, this comes off as a smart, political thriller that's designed as much for a thinking person's pleasure, as that of an action and suspense fan.

    In yet another case of a big star sharpening his teeth in the role of the villain, Bruce Willis ("Die Hard" "Pulp Fiction") perfectly plays the cold, calculating assassin. Donning enough realistic disguises for several movies, Willis sheds his normal wise-guy attitude in favor of a low-keyed performance, and the results are favorable. Talented actress Diane Venora is quite good in her role as the battle-tested Russian officer, and she brings a certain humanity to the film that is noticed more as we warm up to her character. It's also quite enjoyable to see the great Sidney Poitier back on the big screen. While his role is pretty much standard fare -- a typical determined F.B.I. official -- Poitier brings some class to that role and is quite believable.

    The same can be said for Richard Gere's performance. This actor often does better in roles where he's not the knight in shining armor, but instead has a few nicks and dents in his shield. Here he plays a villain himself, but one that is slowly allowed to transform into the movie's hero. What gives his character depth is that he's not the perfect hero -- he has a shadowy past -- and that makes him that much more interesting.

    Gere has always been much better at playing such characters (much like he was in the non-hero role in "Internal Affairs") and this role gives him the opportunity to really get into his performance. What was most surprising about this was Gere's Irish accent. While it sounded relatively good, it took me a long time to accept it since -- well, since Richard Gere always sounds like Richard Gere. For the believability to finally sink in is a testament to Gere's performance and the ability of the film to sweep us away into its story.

    Caton-Jones, working from screenwriter Chuck Pfarrer's script, applies a nice overall touch to the film, knowing just when to let loose with the action or tie up what initially appeared to be seemingly loose ends into a continually tightening knot. The story's pacing is good and it picks up in direct relation to the "good guys" closing in on the assassin. We've always enjoyed -- and certainly appreciated -- films that are good enough to draw you into the story and make you forget about everything else.

    This is one of those films -- at least until the end draws near where some bad visual shooting effects and logical plot problems jar us from that ride. A horrendously done matte shot (where they superimpose actors in a studio onto a scene shot elsewhere) involving Gere on a rooftop is the most glaring. While such shots used to be done -- and accepted -- all of the time, nowadays, they look incredibly fake and this is a perfect example of how not to do it. For not only does it look bad, but it also distracts the audience and yanks us out of the story.

    Then there are the logic problems. In a shootout between The Jackal and Koslova, he fails to hit her -- from a rather close range -- which seems surprising since he's a professional assassin and we expect more proficiency from him. There's also the question of how the Jackal removes his large caliber gun from a yacht after Koslova and Declan chase him from it. Wouldn't the police have searched it? And it's doubtful he could have moved it from the yacht to his van in the allotted time period, especially without anyone seeing him do so at a crowded marina festival.

    The ending also has problems where Declan -- not dressed in any outfit the Secret Service would recognize -- is on a rooftop holding a sniper rifle very close to important government officials, and nothing happens to him. In addition, a long standoff scene in a subway station has the standard good guy, bad guy showdown, but no police ever arrive. Nor do any passengers or subway cars for that matter, and a hostage, once let go, "runs" away very slowly -- an act that elicited a great amount of verbal disbelief from our audience.

    Of course these are somewhat minor points, and many of them can be -- and are -- overlooked in the "heat" of the scene. They certainly work dramatically, yet they give the film a bit of a sloppy feel. That's too bad for they're problems that could easily have been fixed and they bring down the overall quality of the film from a terrific rating to somewhere in the quite good range. Still, for the most part, "The Jackal" is quite a fun thrill ride, and the performances are its highlights. If you like intelligent action thrillers, you probably won't go wrong with this feature. We give it an 8 out of 10.

    Violence and profanity highlight the objectionable material in this film. As the main character is an assassin, many people are killed throughout the film (in a cold, callous fashion), and the results are quite bloody. Obviously the main character and others have bad attitudes. Parents may be concerned that Bruce Willis (who usually plays the "good guy" in films) is the professional killer and that the film's "hero" (played by Richard Gere) is a former I.R.A. sharpshooter. Profanity is extreme with nearly 20 "f" words, and there are many tense and suspenseful scenes that mainly occur in the second half of the film. While few preteens will want to see this movie, many teenagers just might. Thus, you should read through the material to determine whether this movie is appropriate for them, or for anyone else in your family.

  • People drink inside a nightclub.
  • Preston gives Koslova a drink from his flask.
  • The Jackal drinks some sort of liquor while Terek pours himself a drink.
  • A guy who makes some equipment for the Jackal drinks a beer.
  • The Jackal drinks a martini and later has had a few with a man in a bar.
  • Two bikini clad women drink champagne on a boat.
  • The Jackal pours himself some liquor from a bottle in his hotel room.
  • Blood flows from a man's mouth after he's been hit in the head with an ax.
  • A man foams at the mouth after contacting some sort of poison that the Jackal set for him.
  • A weapon blows a man's arm off, leaving a bloody stump, and the man is then hit with machine gun fire that makes him bleed even more.
  • Several officials are shot and are very bloody, including a woman whose face the Jackal "finger paints" a bloody heart on. We also see bloody smears on a hardwood floor.
  • A man is shot and we see two bloody bullet holes in his chest.
  • A man has a bloody bullet hole wound in his leg.
  • Several people are shot at the end and are very bloody.
  • Obviously Terek and the Jackal have both as the first hires the latter, a professional assassin, to kill a high-ranking U.S. official. Along the way, the Jackal kills more people and steals and fakes various forms of identification.
  • Although he's the movie's "hero," Declan was an IRA sharpshooter responsible for many deaths.
  • Viewers may find some scenes listed under "Violence" as also being tense.
  • Terek is displeased with a subordinate and picks up a small battle ax and there's little question about what he's going to do with it.
  • The Jackal must elude several men who follow him into a parking garage.
  • The Jackal makes the man who built his Gatling gun base run through a field to test how well the gun tracks him. The Jackal then makes the man hold out a pack of cigarettes that the Jackal is going to shoot from a distance with this high powered weapon. The results are quite gruesome.
  • Koslova and Declan search for the Jackal in a marina and then have a shootout with him.
  • Koslova and other officials search for the Jackal whom they believe is in a particular house. The scene carries on for quite some time and several people are killed or wounded.
  • The assassination attempt scene is suspenseful as the Jackal sets his plan into motion.
  • Declan chases the Jackal through a subway station and its tunnels and there are several close calls, many gun shots, and a hostage situation.
  • Handguns/Rifles/Knives: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Battle Ax: Used to kill a man by hitting him in the head.
  • The Jackal buys a large Gatling gun/cannon that he plans to use for the assassination, and several people are wounded or killed by it in different scenes.
  • Phrases: "Blow me" (in subtitles), "Whore" and "Bitch" (toward women), "Smart ass," and "Screw" (nonsexual).
  • The Jackal has many fake licenses and other forms of I.D. made for him.
  • The Jackal breaks a car window to steal a parking permit.
  • A man runs and jumps across a subway track -- in front of an oncoming train -- to elude his pursuer.
  • None.
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful music that mainly occurs in the second half of the film.
  • None.
  • At least 18 "f" words (2 used with "mother"), 8 "s" words, 1 possible slang term for female genitals (the "c" word), 6 asses (1 used with "hole"), 6 hells, 1 S.O.B., 1 damn (in subtitles) and 2 uses of "Jesus," and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "G-damn," and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • Some women in a Moscow nightclub show a bit of cleavage.
  • The Jackal is in a gay bar to find his next "helper" (for his plan). He has drinks with a man who tells the Jackal that he should come home with him, and the Jackal kisses this man twice.
  • The Jackal smokes a cigar in one scene and a cigarette in another.
  • Koslova smokes throughout the film, and another Russian official occasionally smokes.
  • Some minor characters, and others in the backgrounds of shots, also smoke.
  • None.
  • Political assassinations.
  • The fact that Bruce Willis (who usually plays the "good guy" in films) plays the killer here and that the film's "hero" (played by Richard Gere) is a former I.R.A. sharpshooter.
  • There's some brief footage in the opening credits showing people being hit and what are assumed to be dead bodies on the street.
  • Koslova, Preston and other police officials raid a Moscow nightclub to arrest a terrorist. A fight breaks out where punches are thrown and the lead terrorist tries to stab Koslova. She then grabs his gun and shoots him dead.
  • Terek kills a subordinate with a blow to the head with a small battle ax.
  • A man is shot with what appears to be a rubber fall that knocks him unconscious.
  • We, and the other characters, see footage of people being electrically shocked during Russian interrogation procedures.
  • The Jackal breaks a car window to steal a parking permit.
  • A man is killed or injured after he touches some sort of substance that the Jackal has put on his van's rear door.
  • The Jackal test fires his powerful weapon at the man who built its base and blows the man's arm off. He then riddles the man, and the vehicle behind him, with massive amounts of machine gun fire.
  • The Jackal shoots at Declan and then at Koslova who fires back at him.
  • The Jackal shoots and kills two more officials and then wounds another person, leaving her to bleed to death.
  • The Jackal shoots another man dead.
  • Machine gun fire rips apart a building and wounds several people.
  • A sharpshooter shoots a van that then explodes.
  • Several people are shot and killed, or wounded, in the final scenes.

  • Reviewed November 11, 1997

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