REVIEW: The Jackal

 I've never been a big fan of the Razzie awards.  When the nominations are announced, curiosity pushes me to check them out.  A lot of the time there are very questionable nominations, and it feels like if a movie was a financial flop (even if it was of good quality) it gets undeserved noms.  However, this year there was a new 'special' category that made me laugh and I thought was incredibly relevant.

The category?  'Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie.'  You may be surprised to know that there are a total of eight films that fall into this category, and I can admit that I have seen three of them.  All bad performances.  Bad, bad, bad.  However, I don't want to wallow in the filth and would much rather take a moment to remember a time when Willis put effort into his roles.

In 1997, Willis was a mega force in Hollywood.  In that year, The Jackal hit theatres.  Willis played The Jackal, an infamous hitman with a hidden identity, a person who almost no one could recognize.  One man who did know what The Jackal looked like and how he operated is convicted felon Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere), a former sniper for the IRA.  To find and capture The Jackal, FBI Deputy Director Preston (Sidney Poitier) gets Mulqueen out of jail temporarily to aid in the chase to capture the hitman before he kills his high value target.

I'm not going to sit here and say that this premise is original.  Getting a criminal out of jail to assist in a manhunt had been done before.  In fact, the film is a remake of the 1973 film, The Day of the Jackal.  Also, I can not honestly defend the Irish accent of Richard Gere in this movie.  It's bad, and bad enough to the point where I wondered why he even needed to be an Irish character.  They could have easily made him from North American, and that would have removed a lot of the unintentional laughs from The Jackal.

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Jackal has a horrible 23% rating.  Roger Ebert put it on his list of worst films of 1997.  There is very little love for this film, and any argument made is not easily countered by myself.  There are flaws, that's for sure.  But this is still a fun movie.  Director Michael Caton-Jones catches moments of super seriousness (which aren't the most effective and come across as cheesy) with elements of humour.  This disconnect, I argue, is what makes The Jackal fun.

It is difficult to describe the pleasure I get watching The Jackal.  I like that it tries hard, and I even like it when it fails at its intentions.  The absurd accent from Gere, the Colonel Trautman style hyping up of The Jackal, and the previously used concept merged together in a joyous viewing experience.  

My enjoyment comes from this deeply disturbed part of my soul that enjoys cinematic swamp water.  If you don't know what swamp water is, it is when you use the soda machine at a restaurant to pour a little of each offering into your cup.  It can be disgusting, but it can also have this undeniable attraction.  It is messy, but something about it works.

The best thing about The Jackal, at least from a modern day perspective, is that Bruce Willis is actually acting.  He's not just sitting there reading lines (or leaning up against a tree and out of breath, as he is in Apex), but actually showing up to the set to portray a character.  With all of the reasons to dislike The Jackal, it could be that my view of it is distorted as I remember a time when Willis was a reason to purchase a theatre ticket.

This movie won't go down as one of my favourites, and could easily be a movie that I can't bring myself to recommend if I watch it again.  Like the soda fountain swamp water, within the muddled mess there are enticing flavours, ones that could repulse but also lead me to taking another sip.  There is something comforting here, something that reminds me that there is a lot more to enjoying a movie than just proper execution of a story.

Rating - 3 out of 4 stars