The Jackal (1997)
The Jackal (1997)

Genre: Crime Drama and Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.

Release Date: November 14th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Michael Caton-Jones Actors: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Mathilda May, J.K. Simmons, Jack Black, John Cunningham




n a Moscow nightclub, Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) gives a signal to FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier) and Agent Witherspoon (J.K. Simmons), who surveil the arrival of Ghazzi Murad, a man wanted for murder. As armed law enforcement storm the building, intent on an arrest, Ghazzi pulls a knife, forcing Valentina to shoot him. Shortly thereafter, in Helsinki, brother Terek (David Hayman) learns of the death, prompting him to hire a renowned assassin, known as the Jackal (Bruce Willis), to murder the director of the FBI, Donald Brown (John Cunningham), as revenge – for a cool $70 million.

At the U.S. Embassy in Russia, Preston receives intel about Terek’s men and his possible movements, while the Jackal purchases forged documents, moves cash around, dons disguises, and acquires vehicles and weaponry for the high-stakes hit, eventually making his way to Montreal. When a rough interrogation of one of Terek’s stooges reveals that the Jackal might be involved, Preston realizes he has few options to thwart the inevitable attack. Former separatist Isabella Decker (Mathilda May), hiding out in Virginia, could know some details, but it’s I.R.A sharpshooter Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere), now serving time at a maximum security prison in Massachusetts, who could be of the greatest help – if the terms are right.

With Carter Burwell’s slick score presiding over the drama, the plot thickens at an impressive pace. There are a few too many characters and details (and at least one unnecessary costume switch), which tend to stall some of the more engaging developments, but an amusing mystery plays out as the authorities attempt to track down an enigmatic killer with countless identities, limitless funds, and plenty of back-up plans when things go awry. Although the Jackal is an antagonist, he’s given enough character development – arguably even more than the protagonists – to make him rather fascinating (and perhaps even charismatic), to the point that he’s just as much fun to watch (even when he’s slaughtering people).

The film isn’t exactly slow-burn, but its pacing is never hurried; director Michael Caton-Jones, working from a script adaptation of 1973’s “The Day of the Jackal” (itself from a book by Frederick Forsyth), creates a rousing, tension-filled thriller full of personas worth investing in. The dialogue is effective, the action sequences are riveting, and even the slow-motion shots are smartly designed. A few moments of potential white-knuckle confrontations deflate, but they’re minimal; the actors do such an outstanding job of taking their roles seriously that it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the suspense. Plus, a few clever twists arise, along with a spectacularly explosive climax and a stunning showdown (though protracted and with a hint of a horror movie trope). This modernized, graphic, edgy update proves that nonstop action isn’t necessary for an astutely edited, convincingly-acted yarn to be thoroughly gripping. “The Jackal” is a first-rate, highly entertaining picture.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10