The Jackal

on November 14, 1997 by Wade Major
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   Fred Zinneman's masterful 1973 adaptation of Frederick Forsyth's bestselling novel "The Day of the Jackal" is unforgivably mutilated in "The Jackal," an alleged "remake" that resembles neither Forsyth's novel nor Zinneman's film sufficiently to claim any relation to either.
   Magnificently dispensing with such trite irritants as logic, narrative cohesion, pacing and suspense, "The Jackal" refashions Forsyth's original premise as a post-Cold War tale wherein a Russian mafioso, seeking revenge for an FBI-led raid that killed his brother, hires a nameless assassin (Bruce Willis) to execute the First Lady (a Hillary Clintonesque Tess Harper). FBI Deputy Director Preston (Sydney Poitier) answers by enlisting the aid of a convicted IRA terrorist named Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere), one of only a handful of individuals who has ever seen the so-called "Jackal."
   Mulqueen, of course, has his own beef with the assassin, dating back to a botched Libyan arms deal that nearly cost the life of his then-lover, KGB operative Isabella (French star Mathilda May), now living the tranquil life of a happy American housewife.
   If only the film were as interesting as the backstory. For the better part of 90 minutes "The Jackal" goes literally nowhere, cross-cutting endlessly between Willis and Gere in various "preparatory" modes, anticipating their eventual collision with as much tension as an afternoon nap. Fortunately, Willis' tireless parade of silly costumes and fervent attempts at conveying menace come off as more camp than cool, making the film at least unintentionally comic when it might have been unbearably boring.
   More disappointing than the hatchet-job by screenwriters Kevin Jarre and Chuck Pfarrer, however, is the involvement of director Michael Caton-Jones whose formidable work on the underrated "Rob Roy" finds no reflection whatsoever in this cliche-ridden morass.
   On a less catastrophic note, Sidney Poitier remains likable as yet another FBI agent, while Richard Gere manages a surprisingly convincing Irish accent.
   It is Diane Venora, however, as Poitier's Russian counterpart Valentina Koslova, who emerges as the film's one redeeming character, miraculously dredging pathos and dignity from a swamp of nonsense.
   And, finally, highest kudos to composer Carter Burwell for having the courage to allow his excellent music be coupled with such preposterous drivel. Starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sydney Poitier, Diane Venora and Mathilda May. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Written by Kevin Jarre and Chuck Pfarrer. Produced by Sean Daniel, James Jacks and Kevin Jarre. A Universal release. Thriller. Rated R for strong violence and language. Running time: 122 min
Tags: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sydney Poitier, Diane Venora, Mathilda May. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Written by Kevin Jarre and Chuck Pfarrer. Produced by Sean Daniel, James Jacks and Kevin Jarre. A Universal release. Thriller
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