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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Jackal

- A G man (Sidney Poitier) asks a jailed IRA sniper (Richard Gere) to help him catch the Jackal

Today, when we think of terrorism, we often link it uniquely to Islamic countries and nationals, but this is, of course, wrong. Terrorism and terrorists are and have been from everywhere. One of the most infamous past terrorists was Carlos the Jackal, (Ilich Ramírez Sánchez), a Venezuelan, noted for a 1975 raid on the OPEC headquarters in Vienna. He has been fictionalized in novels like The Bourne Identity.

- The Jackal was filmed here in Helsinki, as well as Richmond, Virginia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Moscow, London, Porvoo, Toronto, and Montreal

This week's movie is a loaner from my sister - The Jackal - and it's loosely based on the 1973 movie The Day of the Jackal. The film stars Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, and Jack Black. Here's a bit about it from Wikipedia ....

- Black and Willis

A joint mission of the American FBI and the Russian MVD leads to the death of the younger brother of a Russian mobster. In retaliation, the mobster hires an enigmatic assassin known only by the pseudonym, "The Jackal" (Bruce Willis) to carry out the killing of an unknown target ..... As the Jackal begins his preparations for the assassination the FBI learns of one person who can identify the Jackal, FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier) and Russian Police Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) turn to a former Irish Republican Army sniper named Declan Joseph Mulqueen (Richard Gere) who had a relationship with a Basque woman named Isabella Zanconia (Mathilda May), whom they believe can identify The Jackal ......

- Venora and Poitier

I'm guessing this would be thought of as a B movie at best :) but I liked it, despite the violence and the improbable storyline. I thought the actors all did a good job considering what they had to work with - Sidney Poitier was great as always, Gere somehow managed to make even a former IRA sniper likeable, I identified with Venora as the Russian Major who had a scarred face, and Bruce Willis was somewhere between chilling and odd, doing what he could with his sociopathic role. Roger Ebert was not as sanguine about the movie as I (he gave it only one and a half stars!) so take what I've said with a grain of salt. Here below is some of Ebert's review of it ....

- the Jackal sneaks into the US in the Mackinaw to Chicago regatta


``The Jackal'' is a glum, curiously flat thriller about a man who goes to a great deal of trouble in order to create a crime that anyone in the audience could commit more quickly and efficiently. An example: Can you think, faithful reader, of an easier way to sneak from Canada into the United States than buying a sailboat and entering it in the Mackinaw to Chicago race? Surely there must be an entry point somewhere along the famous 3,000-mile border that would attract less attention than the finish line of a regatta .....

``The Jackal'' is based on the screenplay of Fred Zinnemann's 1973 classic ``The Day of the Jackal.'' That was a film that impressed us with the depth of its expertise: We felt it knew exactly what it was talking about. ``The Jackal,'' on the other hand, impressed me with its absurdity. There was scarcely a second I could take seriously.

Examples: In the Washington, D.C., subway system, the Jackal jumps across the tracks in front of a train, to elude his pursuers. The train stops, exchanges passengers and pulls out of the station. Is it just possible, do you suppose, that in real life after a man jumps across the tracks, the train halts until the situation is sorted out? Or, how about the scene where the Jackal parks his van in a garage and paints the hatch handle with a deadly poison? One of his enemies touches the handle, convulses and dies an agonizing death. Is that a good way to avoid attention? By being sure there's a corpse on the ground next to your van? Or, how about the scene early in the film where a fight breaks out on cue, and then stops immediately after a gunshot is fired? Bad handling of the extras here: Everybody in a bar doesn't start or stop fighting at once. Even in the movies, there are always a few guys who delay before joining in, or want to land one last punch at the end. These barflies are as choreographed as dancing Cossacks. The Jackal is played by Bruce Willis, as a skilled professional killer who hires a man to build him a remote-controlled precision gun mount. The man unwisely asks the kinds of questions that, in his business, are guaranteed to get you killed. Hint: If you should find yourself doing business with a man who wants to pay cash for a device to hold, move and aim a rifle capable of firing 100 explosive rounds before the first one hits its target--hey, don't go into a lot of speculation about what he may be planning to do with it.

On the Jackal's trail is the deputy head of the FBI (Sidney Poitier), who enlists the help of an IRA terrorist (Richard Gere). The IRA man is a federal prisoner, released into Poitier's custody to lead them to his lover, a Basque terrorist (Mathilda May), who knows what the Jackal looks like. The other major character is a Russian-born agent named Valentina (Diane Venora), whose character trait (singular) is that she lights a cigarette every time she is not already smoking one. I kept waiting for her to be killed, so that a last puff of smoke could drift from her dying lips as her fingers relaxed their grip on her lighter.

There was never a moment in ``The Jackal'' where I had the slightest confidence in the expertise of the characters. The Jackal strikes me as the kind of overachiever who, assigned to kill a mosquito, would purchase contraband insecticides from Iraq and bring them into the United States by hot air balloon, distilling his drinking water from clouds and shooting birds for food .....


Heh :) So, renter beware - you may agree with Ebert rather than me on the film.

- the good guys fly to the rescue


Blogger PamBG said...

Today, when we think of terrorism, we often link it uniquely to Islamic countries and nationals, but this is, of course, wrong. Terrorism and terrorists are and have been from everywhere.

Yes, lots of Americans gave money to the IRA, even during the 1980s and 1990s. Enniskillen.

I guess this is ancient history now but it doesn't seem that long ago to me.

One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.

3:19 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Pam,

Yes, you're so right. Here in the US, where we haven't suffered from an an act of IRA terrorism and where there are so many of Irish descent, I think the IRA has almost a romantic aura.

There was an older James Bond movie - The Living Daylights - where Bond teams up with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Russians ..... yesterday's freedom fighters can be seen as today's terrorists and the other way around as well.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I would have hated it!

But anyway, I haven't taken thee off the contributers of that Quakerish scripture study blog, once hoping you might wander back some time and find something you wanted to say

but that isn't happening, and here you are listed on a blog you're quite innocent of, lately!

Should I unlist you, then? (Forrest)

9:22 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Forrest :)

I do visit now and then to look up some of my pld posts there, but I don't think I'll have the time to ever post anything new - this blog is taking up pretty much all the free time that I have for blogging.

I'm fine with my name being there still - maybe if someone sees an old post of mine and wants to find me, that will be helpful for them. But if you'd rather take my name off, that's ok too.

11:49 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

I thought I had seen The Jackal, but after reading the description, I'm not so sure. I know we took it out of the Library, but maybe we didn't watch it.

The original Day of the Jackal is very good. Kind of slow and methodical, but an interesting atmosphere.

Yeah, one person's terrorist . . . we paint them as terrorists when they're not on our side.

I believe the last Rambo movie was set in Afghanistan, with Rambo and the Muhajideen fighting the Soviets, too.

Ronald Reagan should, and I think will, be judged more harshly in the future for his decision to arm those people to the hilt. We were so desperate to get back at the Soviets for Vietnam that we didn't care that our "allies" hated us intensely and weren't very reasonable people.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Liam said...

Reagan armed terrorists all over the place -- Afghanistan, Central America. That's just ONE of the many reasons his presidency was so destructive (William & I had a recent email exchange rating different presidents. We differed on who was worse, Nixon or Reagan. I think Reagan was).

7:46 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I remember watching The Jackal when it first came out on DVD. I didn't hate it. I think you need to set your mind on what it is you're watching sometimes. Though it was awhile ago, I'm sure I didn't sit down thinking I'd be watching a timeless classic in the making. ;o)

10:35 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Yeah, in the James Bond movie, the Afghan freedom fighters were very likeable - Art Malik played their leader and he had gone to school at Oxford :) It makes me think of that recent movie Charlie Wilson's War.

10:47 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Can I vote for worst president, too? I'd pick Nixon - although Reagon may have done more damage, I think Nixon was more personally venal. And mean to animals - did you see how he held Checkers up by the ears?! :)

10:52 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Yes, I don't expect profunditu from most movies, just entertainment :)

10:54 AM  
Blogger Garpu said...

Rare political blather from me, but perhaps it's because I don't remember Nixon that I'd say Regan was worse. Arming terrorist groups, cutting funding for education and the arts, and he trashed the economy. Then again, he's nowhere near on the same level as Dubya.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Liam said...

I think also apart from all of the stuff that Garpu mentioned, the most insidious thing Reagan did was to create a movement that outlasted his administration and defined political discourse in this country. The idea that government is irredeemably evil and that any kind of regulation or social spending is a waste of taxpayer's money has really messed up this country. Even now, after Katrina, when we can't eat tomatoes because once again the FDA doesn't have the funding to do its job, still John McCain is using the Reagan mantras against Obama.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I think that was Johnson and his beagles. No?

1:08 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


You may well be right - I looked for a picture in Google's image base of Nixon and Checkers and couldn't find one. I may no have to reconsider his level of evil-ness :)

2:18 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Garp,

Yeah, Reagan was more insidious and pervasive in his damage to the country, I guess. I must have watched All The President's Men too many times :)

2:20 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Was it Reagon who came up with the idea of trickle down economy as the way to help others? That sort of "I'll buy lots of stuff and that will eventually help the poor" philosophy?

2:22 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I never heard of this movie. The old 'Day of the Jackal' from 1973, based on the Frederick Forsyth novel was outstanding! Still the best movie of that genre, if you ask me. Edward Fox was excellent as the "Jackal", the man with no name. All those INTERPOL guys racing around Paris in their Citroens...

Outstanding summary by Liam on the problematic legacy of the Reagan years.

4:54 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

Yes, this movie is nowhere as good as The Day of the Jackal, sadly. I read they asked Edward Fox to make a cameo appearance but he said no.

10:59 AM  

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