If there is product placement in The Jackal it’s for the company that produces hairpieces. Bruce Willis is a hitman who is only known by his ocdename, The Jackal, and who goes to great lengths to change his appearance every place he visits so that no accurate description can be made of him. And so we see Willis in a variety of appearances, as if Jerry Blake from the Stepfather made a career out of killing people for money instead of creating the perfect family.
The Jackal is a remake of a movie I never saw, The Day Of The Jackal made in 1973 so comparisons are out of the question for me. This updated version builds upon the fundaments of the original story but sets it in the 1990’s and changes the target, locations and characters. The basic premise remains; the authorities are aware of a hitman preparing to strike a high placed official. They team up with an inmate who has seen his face to try and stop him. The inmate here is Sean Connery as Mason Storm Richard Gere as Declan Mulqueen, IRA sniper but who seems to have been reformed. Actually he’s one of those inmates who is too nice to be realistic. Together with Sidney Poitier and Diane Venora he enters a game of cat and mouse with Willis.
The Jackal was released in 1997 but is one of those movies I just never saw and just recently got around to when they showed it on cable. It’s one of those movies that never had any real buzz around them and nobody seems to own in their DVD collection. Strange because it does have some star power with Gere and Willis headlining the picture. But maybe the reason The Jackal failed to impress is because other than Bruce Willis’ change of appearances every 10 minutes the movie doesn’t have much to offer actually. The majority of Willis’ actions revolve around sneaking from country to country and trying to get his weaponry in place for the assassination. The other part of the movie is about Gere and co trying to figure out where Willis is. The problem lies with the fact that Willis’ preparation seems to be a little overdoing it. This is the guy that would gas his entire house just because he spotted a bug. At one point they steal a gimmick from Knight Rider where a car would change paint color by spraying it with water. Bruce has this feature on the minivan he drives and is able to change the color of his car within 30 seconds. Naturally this would make a great escape trick, but when he utilizes it he drives into a parking garage where they just so happen to have a car wash unit and he parks his car with a different color somewhere, yet the people following him basically instantly find the car. Luckily he sprayed soma lethal chemical on one of the handles so anybody coming near his car dies pretty quickly. Nice way to keep your vehicle inconspicuous.
His overachieving methods make up the majority of the movie and I was surprised how quickly the FBI at one point put together under which aliases he was travelling. I was also surprised that when they are pretty certain he’s entering US soil through a regatta they do such a lousy job in finding him. US Marshalls which was released a year later showed us how to properly perform a manhunt, so they didn’t need Richard Gere, they needed Tommy Lee Jones.
The movie is entertaining but nothing memorable and actually deserves to be one of those forgotten movies from Willis’ filmography. But when you catch it on cable like it did it’s pretty stuff on how to over-prepare for an assassination. A simple automated sniper rifle could just as well do the trick and require a lot less smuggling and killing.