Willis Struggles to get into Gere
Although it very loosely shares a few elements with the impressive "The Day of the Jackal", "The Jackal" starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere and Sidney Poitier is not a remake rather a movie which ends up feeling slightly influenced by the original. Sadly that influence didn't turn it into a great movie, just another commercial outing with a nonsensical storyline and performances that are meant to be crowd pleasers but to be frank are not very impressive. Technically it's not terrible because it's pretty much on par with many of the so called action thrillers which got churned out in the late 90s; it's just rather stupid and disappointing.
After his brother is killed, Russian mobster Terek (David Hayman) declares war on the FBI and Russian militia and hires world renowned assassin The Jackal (Bruce Willis - Die Hard: With a Vengeance) to kill the director of the FBI. When the FBI learn of this, FBI deputy director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier - Sneakers) and Russian Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) are forced to call on the services of imprisoned IRA terrorist Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere - Final Analysis) to help track down the Jackal. But for Mulqueen it's more than just tracking him down, it's a chance to get even.
The thing about "The Jackal" is that the storyline, the supposedly tense tale of cat and mouse between a deadly assassin and as ex terrorist on his trail is pretty stupid. The whole thing basically revolves around extraordinary lengths The Jackal goes to in order to pull of a paid assassination, which include buying a weapon that is so impractical you question why he is such an expert as well as various unbelievable steps to cover his trail. It frankly is quite stupid, even absurd and pointless as it becomes pretty much the whole emphasis of the movie. But then it delivers a cover, this element of fake intrigue as you sort of get carried away with all these unbelievable steps to cover his path without necessary realising it's stupid.
Aside from being absurd "The Jackal" is also not overly thrilling, once the main characters are put into place you know that it will end up as a battle between the assassin and the ex terrorist, it's the way these sorts of movies go and what happens in between ends up as filler. It is filler full of contrivances from the way the FBI manage to track down the Jackal, through to how much freedom terrorist Declan Mulqueen is given as he helps them in their enquiries. It veers beyond belief with a series of technology scenes which are quite laughable and action scenes which are not exactly that action packed, with various rather obvious and mundane shoot outs. But it does run at a remarkably decent pace which means on first viewing you can easily miss how stupid things are.
What "The Jackal" pretty much ends up as is a vehicle for its two stars Bruce Willis and Richard Gere. Now there is all the Willis trademarks, the smirk, the intense stare but between having little dialogue and a series of inept disguises it ends up both a corny character and a disappointing performance. As this world classed, feared assassin The Jackal is less than menacing although he does have a coolness which transcends much of what is bad. As for Gere, well let's just say his Irish accent is consistent but consistent at being too thick and heavy. It feels almost a cliche accent and all it needed was for Gere to say "Top of the morning" to be a complete joke. His performance to be frank is not much better and struggles to convince that he is passionate for tracking down The Jackal or as someone who has been in prison for terrorist activities. He is too much of a charmer and it spoils the believability of the character.
Aside from Bruce Willis and Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier turns up in a stereotypical FBI role and whilst his performance is effective is never really the powerful performance you would expect from such a revered actor. Diane Venora is reasonable but a bit cliche as Russian agent Major Valentina Koslova as is J.K. Simmons as FBI Agent T. I. Witherspoon. Probably the most entertaining performance comes from Jack Black who gets a few scenes, but it's more to do with what happens to him than his actual performance which makes it enjoyable.
What this all boils down to is that "The Jackal" to be frank is a very stereotypical late 90s thriller, that doesn't really deliver anything close to be thrilling. Between being stupid and contrived the storyline is less than impressive, with a sense of being completely daft and over the top in its search for being clever. The performances don't help it much and as such it's not the spectacular movie you would hope for. It's not terrible, just disappointing as it heads off in the wrong direction with the star names ending up more important than the actual integrity of the story.