Jackal, The

The Jackal, directed by Michael Caton-Jones, is a formula blockbuster
and a complete artistic void. The only interesting thing about it to me was the
chance it afforded to spot the trends as to what ingredients go into the formula
this year. For example, the macho man who has an on-screen homosexual kiss looks
as if it may become a kind of cinematic rite of passage since Kevin Kline and
Tom Selleck showed ’em how in In
and Out
. Here Bruce Willis, a professional hit man, plants one on a fellow
patron of a gay bar where he has sought cover. The kiss is itself just part of
his cover, however, which may get him into trouble with the
lobby. The idea is that Willis’s
like Frederick Forsyth’s original, is
supposed to be a master of disguise. How odd it is then that Willis, who is not
a wooden or one-dimensional actor when he chooses not to be, plays all his
disguises with exactly the same pursed lip smirk that is his besetting sin. I
guess he thinks it looks cold and ruthless. But a child could see through the
alleged disguises.

Another sign of the times is IRA chic
(that’s Irish Republican Army, not
Individual Retirement Account). Richard Gere appears here as the alleged IRA
Declan Mulqueen with an Irish accent as hokey as Bruce
Willis’s disguises. Even Brad Pitt, in
The Devil’s Own,
managed to sound almost like a real Irishman. What?
Can’t Gere afford
Pitt’s dialect coach? Declan, who is
careful to specify that he is not one of the kind of IRA men who blow people up,
is so romantic a hero that he not only saves the day against the Jackal but
takes over the direction of FBI operations (another movie fashion: the FBI are
the biggest bunch of incompetents who ever shouldered a holster) which result in
the saving of the First Lady from the
Jackal’s assassination attempt. But he
doesn’t have to kiss a man on

And then there is Tough Gal chic. Wherever the movie bullets are flying these
days and the macho men, having given over kissing each other, are at last
getting down to the fighting, you always find a woman or two like Diane Venora
as Major Valentina Koslova, Russian mafia-buster (as opposed to bustier) now
teamed up with the FBI—a woman who, says Sidney Poitier (the
movie’s one sympathetic Fed)
single-handedly “ends the debate on
women in combat.” Guess which side she
ends it on? Here there’s another gal
too, Isabella (Mathilda May), a similarly noble Basque separatist who is
Declan’s former lover and now a
suburban housewife. These two lovable terrorists have a common grudge against
the Jackal because he once caught them in a trap and shot Isabella when she was
pregnant with Declan’s child. Only the
child was killed. Do you think these two will meet in a final showdown with the
Jackal? And what do you think will happen if they do?

But for all the fashionable elements on display in this movie—which
also include an assortment of ugly, ruthless and very rich thugs purporting to
belong to the Russian mafia, a gleaming, computer-controlled machine gun
grotesquely overqualified for its evil purpose, and the real-life Larry King
interviewing the fictional First Lady—there is one very
unfashionable bit. This comes as the Jackal tells one of his many victims
before she dies to “Tell Declan he
can’t protect his
women.” Golly! Not only a murderer but
a male chauvinist as well! But instead of having the dying woman leap up and
knock the man down with a couple of well-placed karate kicks—
“Who says we need
protecting” ? she could shout; or
“Who says
his?”—she merely expires,
leaving the unfashionably gallant Declan to his anguish over the taunt.
Likewise, Declan doesn’t bolt when let
out of jail to help catch the Jackal because he gave his word.

Such chivalry is clearly not only out-of-fashion but desperately
old-fashioned. You’d think that
it could get such a cutting edge spectacle as this is into a lot of trouble. But
the one good thing about this otherwise wholly lamentable picture is that
showing women being protected and men keeping their word
doesn’t seem to have damaged it at the
box office.

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