Monthly Archives: March 2013

K is for… Killer Elite

Killer Elite, directed by Gary McKendry, is different from the other files I’ve reviewed in that it is based on a true story, specifically the book The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Surely the other films I’ve looked at—minus G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Face/Off—have factual elements or could conceivably occur in the real world, but Killer Elite is based on true events. Well, “true events” that the parties in question deny and no one knows what actually happened, so the story is basically fiction, anyway.

That’s fine with me, because action films based solely on true events might not be as entertaining as ones where Castor Troy and John Matrix exist.

Anyway, Killer Elite stars Jason Statham as Danny, an ex-British special ops guy, who spends the movie doing a mercenary job to free his long time mentor Hunter, played by Robert De Niro. The film opens in 1980 with the two of them on an op, killing their target with the help of a couple other members of their crew, Meier (Aden Young) and Davies (Dominic Purcell). Danny killed the target in front of his son, and got badly wounded himself, and immediately says he’s done with that line of work. Cut to a year or so later, and Danny receives in the mail a picture of Hunter being held hostage. He treks from Australia to Oman, and learns that Hunter is being held captive by Sheik Amr (Rodney Afif). Amr’s sons, minus Bakhait (Firass Dirani), were all killed by British special forces—SAS—soldiers. Hunter had agreed to take on the job of killing the soldiers in retaliation but later refused, and Danny has to complete the job in order to free Hunter. He’d still get the six million dollars initially offered to Hunter.

Danny rounds up Meier and Davies again, and they help him narrow down targets with the help of Agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the one who assigned them jobs in the first place. Experts that they are, the job should be a fairly easy one once the targets are identified, but on their tail is former SAS agent Spike (Clive Owen). The Feathermen, an ex-SAS member secret society, has him tracking Danny’s group after Davies is recognized as asking too many questions about the battle where Amr’s sons were killed. Also making the job difficult is that Danny must get the men to confess on tape to killing the sons, and also the deaths must look like accidents.

The first target, Harris (Lachy Hulme), is killed easily enough by making it look like he fell in the shower, though Danny’s group is spied on and thus Spike knows what they all look like. The second target, Cregg (Grant Bowler), is killed on an SAS training march, and his death is made to look like hypothermia. The final target, McCann (Daniel Roberts), is killed in what appears to be a vehicle accident but is actually Meier controlling a truck that forces McCann to crash into it. Meier also dies tragically on this final leg of the mission due to friendly (inexperienced) fire of his new protégé Jake (Michael Dorman). Davies also soon dies as he’s chased by Spike’s men into traffic and is hit by a truck.

Seemingly the job is done, but it turns out Harris wasn’t actually guilty of killing the sheik’s son. Ranulph Fiennes (Dion Mills) was another soldier in the battle, and he has written a book about his experiences, including killing Amr’s son. Danny is forced into action again when his girlfriend Anne (Yvonne Strahovski) is threatened. He works with Jake to fake an assault on Spike and other agents, and pretends to kill Fiennes in order to save Anne’s life. Anne, meanwhile, is in Paris being watched over by Hunter, after giving Danny grief over not knowing anything about him and his past.

Spike takes Danny hostage but is in turn assaulted by a British government agent who explains the events of the sheik’s son’s deaths were all a play to control the sheik’s oil reserves. Spike winds up killing the agent and Danny escapes. He and Hunter return to Oman to show Amr their photos and get their money, but Spike gets there first. He explains the pictures of Fiennes are fake and kills the sheik, though since he’s obviously on his deathbed it’s a token act. Bakhait doesn’t care at all and gives Spike the money put aside for Danny.

After a chase through the streets, with Danny and Hunter chasing the sheik’s men that are chasing Spike, Spike, Danny, and Hunter wind up in the desert. Hunter takes some of the money and he and Danny leave Spike.

Cue the last scene being Danny meeting up with Anne so they can start their life together.

The film is entertaining and doesn’t spin into strangeness the way it might if it weren’t based on a true story. It seemed a little long but I seem to say that about every film I’ve reviewed save Commando, which I think everyone can agree can be another fifteen or twenty minutes longer to give Arnold more time to blow up more stuff.

There are a number of interesting things about the movie, so let’s get into the criteria.

A is for… Accents

I started to keep track of accents before I realized every single person in the movie has a non-American accent except for Robert De Niro, but considering his New York accent he can be described as having an accent as well.

Everyone has an accent because the movie takes place in a slew of foreign countries: Mexico, Australia, Oman, England, and France.

B is for… Bad Guys

Killer Elite is one of those films where either everyone is the bad guy, or no one is. Danny and Hunter are the protagonists and the audience roots for them, but they are assassins who by definition kill people. Amr is a villain for making Danny kill people, but he’s only avenging the deaths of his sons. Spike is the antagonist getting in Danny’s way, but he’s only operating for the Feathermen, who are only trying to keep their SAS members alive. By the very nature of them being a secret society they seem to be morally ambiguous and are prepared to make Spike take the fall should anything go awry, and describe themselves as businessmen and bankers, and get other people to do their dirty work. Spike is described as having no job and keeping odd hours, which makes him suspicious but not necessarily a bad guy. But then throw in Agent and the British government, who orchestrate the whole thing from the beginning regarding Amr’s sons, so “government” is the evil force even though outside of one agent and the slates at the beginning of the film, it’s not mentioned.

C is for… Chases

Danny’s group spots the photographer taking pictures of them in the desert and chase him into and then through a series of underground tunnels. He’s able to get away by unleashing a swarm of some kind of large insect, which distracts Danny’s men.

Spike recognizes Danny from the photographer’s pictures of Davies and chases him as Danny leaves the hospital. The chase looks almost slow motion in cars from the ‘70s on narrow streets. Danny guides Spike back to the hospital and slips inside to hide. Spike sees his footprint in a recently washed floor and is able to follow him. They wind up fighting in what looks like an operating room, and Danny ends the fight by catching the leg Spike tries to kick him with, and punching him in the groin.

After McCann’s death, Meier and Jake are chased by McCann’s minder. They wind up at a storage yard of some sort and before Davies can get there Jake shoots the minder in the back of the head, somehow not realizing the bullet would travel through him and into Meier, who was standing right in front of him.

Some of the Feathermen find Davies in a motel room with a prostitute and he runs away. Unfortunately he runs into the middle of the road and his hit by a truck. Spike is mad about that because now he can’t get information from him.

After Danny pretends to kill Fiennes, he runs and Spike chases him through the building, across the roof, back down again, and it’s a really entertaining suspenseful chase.

The second to last sequence in the film is Amr’s men chasing Spike and Hunter and Danny chasing them. Hunter is able to break it up by slamming his car into theirs, and then he and Danny go after Spike.

D is for… Damsels

Anne Frazer is the least engaging type of action film damsels by being not only a target for the bad guys, and harping on the hero for his sketchy past and lack of proper attention to her, but also serving no useful purpose at all aside from those two things. She could be sliced out the film entirely and it would make no difference. Which is sad considering how much I adored the actress on Chuck, and know she’s much better than her role in Killer Elite. Yes, she’s beautiful, but she can also be so much more. Ironically her accent sounds fake, but the actress is actually from Australia.

The backstory between them is that they knew each other as children, and she lives nearby where Danny is fixing up a house, so he must have returned to his home or somewhere he knew very well. She’s another incentive for Danny to quit being an assassin, as if killing people and getting shot weren’t enough. The more she knows about him the more she realizes she doesn’t know, and she even drops on him, “You go away and I realize I know nothing about you.” He’s trying to do one last job to save his friend and later her, and she gives him nothing but grief. Understandably, what with her becoming a target and all, but still.

The only other woman in the film with memorable screen time (aside from the prostitute and Harris’s girlfriend) is a woman who sees Danny fall through scaffolding and catch himself right outside her window. He has his gun, and she looks at it and him and he tells her not to “do it.” The film cuts back and forth between them and Spike, and when Danny turns his head away from her is when she chokes out an awful scream that alerts Spike to Danny’s presence.

E is for… Explosions

The film is more thinky than explodey, so there aren’t many explosions.

Meier explodes the sedan in the opening scene so Danny can go in and make his kill.

A trap is set for Danny where Fiennes is being kept, and the door explodes. However it’s Jake that takes the brunt of it.

Lastly a pipe of some sort on the roof of the building explodes when Spike shoots it while aiming for Danny.

F is for… Flashbacks

A lot of Danny and Anne’s relationship is explained through the use of flashbacks, including when they met as adults and him slowly building his house. There’s a flashback of them at New Year’s where she fires a rifle into the air, so maybe she has potential to be part of the action plot, but nothing ever comes out of it.

While readying to shoot Fiennes, Danny flashes back on the kid of the man he killed in Mexico. It may be what stops him from killing Fiennes, but maybe not as Danny didn’t want to return to the op anyway.

G is for… Guns

Details at the IMFDB.

The film is about assassins and ex-soldiers, so everyone has a gun.

In Mexico Hunter uses an assault rifle.

Amr’s palace guards have handguns that prove useless because they never get the chance to fire them when Hunter and Danny try to escape. Some even have machine guns.

Agent of course has his own handgun.

Harris has his own handgun that he and his girlfriend use to shoot bottles.

The photographer in the desert has a rifle.

Anne has her New Year’s celebratin’ rifle.

Jake shoots the minder and Meier with a revolver.

Hilariously Danny pitches a handgun at a guard and it smacks him in the face, knocking him down.

There are various shootouts as well:

During the Mexico scene Hunter and Danny get into one with a cop.

Hunter and Danny storm through Amr’s palace.

The photographer and Danny’s team in the desert.

Hunter and Amr’s men.

Let’s also not forget Hunter’s shot through the subway that gets Agent right in the leg.

H is for… Helicopters

During C Company’s rest day Harris buzzes the troops on the beach in a military helicopter.

The “Motherfucker What’s In Charge” has a chopper.

I is for… Improvisation

Danny and his crew mostly just use their guns, though they did have to get creative with the killings, like making a club using bathroom tile, faking hypothermia, and using a remote controlled truck. Danny does have to get a little creative while fighting hand-to-hand with Spike, including using a tray as a blunt instrument. He’s also able to use the chair strapped to his back later in the movie to his advantage in a fist fight.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

Danny smashes Spike into numerous glass cabinets in the operating room.

During the chase scene through the buildings, Danny leaps onto scaffolding and proceeds to fall through several levels of it.

Danny throws himself through a window, using the chair strapped to his back to break the glass.

K is for… Kill Count

Danny of course kills the man in the sedan in Mexico, but that’s before the story even really starts.

Meier kills Harris with the bathroom tile club, though it looks like there was more of a struggle than anticipated. Of course, Harris wasn’t actually guilty.

Davies kills the battle photographer/painter in order to get an address.

Danny kills Cregg by drugging him then injecting him to make him go into shock, then watches him die of hypothermia on the march.

Meier kills McCann by forcing him to crash his car.

Danny doesn’t actually like killing, especially people not on the list to kill. He’s angry Davies kills the painter, and doesn’t kill Fiennes himself.

L is for… Limitations

Davies actually outlines the group’s limitations on the operation quite nicely:

The SAS is “a paranoid bunch. Always got their back up.”

Oman is a black hole: “You need info on Oman. No one talks about Oman.”

They have to get the soldiers to confess, but they’ll be trying to resist torture, so they’ll say nothing.

The SAS is the “best special forces regime in the world. They make the Navy SEALs look like cupcakes.”

They also have to make the murders look like accidents, and even Amr doesn’t know who actually killed his sons. So, there’s a lot of recon and planning that has to be done. By the end Danny doesn’t have his team, is worried about Anne and Hunter, and really doesn’t even want to be doing the job at all.

M is for… Motivation

Amr wants revenge for the SAS killing his sons, Hussain, Salim, and Ali. Bakhait wasn’t in the war and is exiled. Amr wants Bakhait to go home to the desert after his death. Amr needs the SAS killers dead so Bakhait can return to his tribe.

Danny obviously only wants to save Hunter, and later Anne. He doesn’t even have any interest in taking the money, though six million went a long way in 1980.

N is for… Negotiation

Danny has to get Meier and Davies on board, though it doesn’t take much negotiation especially once he says he doesn’t want the six million and they can split it between them.

Danny makes Hunter agree to get out of the business if he gets him out of there.

Hunter tells Agent, “You go after them, I’ll find you. Everybody gets found. Even you.”

I suppose there’s not so much negotiating as there are ultimatums and statements about the future.

O is for… One Liners

Danny: I’m done with killing.
Agent: Maybe killing’s not done with you.

Meier: Would you like a lolly?
Davies: I’d love a lolly.
Meier: Strawberry or fuck you?

Featherman: I’ve got no problem with blood. What worries me is ink.

Guard: You can’t stop here, mate.
Davies: I didn’t stop, the truck did.

Danny: The first think you should buy is a pair of balls.

Davies: I’ll have a hooker for him. He’d like that.

Featherman: He had this on him.
Spike, sarcastic: Oh a phone number. Great work.

Hunter: What’s the plan?
Danny: Get out of here.
Hunter: Sounds good.

Hunter: So how are the Yankees doing?

Hunter: Life is like licking honey from a thorn.

Hunter: Relax, I only killed the car.

Hunter, taking the sheik’s money from Spike: I got to cover my expenses.

Spike: So where are you going?
Danny: What, you planning a visit?

P is for… Profession

Danny and Hunter kill “assholes.” It’s clear they’re assassins but it’s not initially evident if they are “good” guys or “bad” guys, with only knowing Jason Statham is the lead letting the audience know he’s the hero to root for. After the mission in Mexico, Danny retires to Australia, but gets pulled back in to rescue Hunter. Clearly he’s a highly trained killer if Hunter is hired for a job and he’s hired to get it done once Hunter refuses.

Hunter ran from the job of killing the sheik’s son’s killers and was taken hostage to get Danny to finish the job.

Danny is depicted as being good at his job as an assassin, mercenary, whatever, such as when he steals the bathroom tile to make the club for Harris’s death. He doesn’t actually like his job, and doesn’t like when his team members kill people without needing to or don’t stick to the plan they agreed to. All three assassinations go off pretty smoothly, and if Davies were a better actor the Feathermen might not have realized what was going on at all.

The SAS is described as “top class professional assassins.”

Q is for… Quagmire

By the end of the film, Danny is alone except for Jake the new kid, fighting someone else’s fight for a cause he doesn’t believe in for people he doesn’t trust, while his girlfriend is a target. He and Spike get tied to chairs with seemingly no way out.

R is for… Reality/Suspension of Disbelief

Considering the film is based on a true story, however loosely, it better stick pretty close to reality! And it does, with notably fewer massive explosions, massive chases, ridiculous firefights, and fewer giant action sequences in general.

S is for… Sidekicks

Meier and Davies are the obvious sidekicks. They’re clearly important members of Danny and Hunter’s team. Outside of them Danny doesn’t have anyone helping him.

T is for… Technology

Because the film is set in 1980, the technology—or lack thereof—is quite noticeable.

Everyone has to dial on rotary phones, and it’s actually pretty distracting to see. Any kids watching the movie aren’t going to know what those are. 1980 was a strange middle period where it’s too far in the past to have clunky versions of modern technology, but not old enough for those crank phones in movies set in the ‘50s.

Meier uses a giant remote to control the truck; it’s roughly the size of two shoeboxes put together.

Danny has his video confessions on videotape, and no wonder he doesn’t have a problem faking McCann’s confession. Who had camcorders in 1980? It all looked amazing back then, even though the footage would most likely be considered unwatchable today.

Danny also uses what looks like a 35-milimeter camera with no fancy lenses or anything, just a point-and-click on which he’ll have to wait to get the film developed. Such a thing—not being able to see a photo right after it’s taken—is such a foreign thing even to me, and I’ve only had a digital camera for a few years.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

Because there are no women other than Danny’s girlfriend, there is no unexpected romance, just their annoying and predictable one.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

There’s a lot of running around in the film, and a lot of traveling, but because it’s grounded in reality there aren’t too many scenes with stand-out vehicles in them. The very final chase with Amr’s men has Hunter and Danny using their SUV to cut off/smash into Amr’s men’s car, and Hunter uses the SUV to ram into Spike’s car. I’d say run him off the road but they aren’t really on a road so much as they’re in the middle of the desert.

W is for… Winning

Once McCann is dead, Danny believes the mission is over and Hunter is released and they can both go home. But because Harris wasn’t actually guilty, Danny has to go back into the field after Fiennes. Danny is able to fake Fiennes’s death and get his pictures for Amr, though Spike is able to take the camera and give the pictures to Amr and get the money. Danny meanwhile evades Spike and meets up with Hunter.

They all go back to Oman, where Spike shows the pictures to Amr then stabs him. Bakhait could not care less about his father because he doesn’t have any interest in going back to the desert to run the oil empire. Bakhait gives Spike the money reserved for Danny and Hunter.

Spike gets chased out of the palace by Amr’s guards, who chase him by car through the streets, and Danny and Hunter chase them. Hunter knocks the guards out of the chase and follows Spike through the desert. He and Danny disable the car by crashing into it and shooting out the tires. They all kind of agree to disagree, Hunter takes some of the money, and then he and Danny leave Spike there and tell him they’ll call him a cab.

The film ends of course with Danny picking up Anne.

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

During the final chase/fight sequence against Spike, Danny falls through several layers of wooden scaffolding, gets beaten up, gets tied to a chair and has to fight for his freedom with said chair tied to him, and throws himself through a window and lands on a truck. The aftermath of all of this isn’t really seen, so maybe he does see a doctor, but if he’s a typical movie hero, he’s fine and just walks it off.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

It’s unrelated to Danny and Hunter, but the SAS killing Amr’s sons sets everything in motion and they get caught up in it. Had the SAS not killed the sons, there wouldn’t be a job. Also if Danny hadn’t tried to retire, perhaps Hunter wouldn’t have said he’d take the job he then refused to do. Also Danny might be out of shape after having retired.

Z is for… Zone, Being in the

Because so much of the job is team-oriented, no one is really in a “zone.” Especially Davies and Meiers, and Hunter is locked up through most of it. Danny is great at his job, but he has his team to help him plan and get things together.

Killer Elite has a lot of good in it, even though it’s hard to understand what’s happening because of everyone’s accents. Watching with subtitles actually really helped a lot. For a “true story” that happened in 1980, the story and action are both good. Definitely worth a re-watch.

As usual, here are a few final thoughts:

There are a couple of pat-downs done by Amr’s men on Danny that are extremely weak and ineffective. They didn’t seem to check the small of his back.

Like any good action movie, there are a lot of choreographed fist fights, with numerous headbutts.

Danny has a great fight while strapped to a chair, which isn’t something I’d ever thought about being awesome before seeing it in Marvel’s The Avengers.

Amr has a large bird of prey that wears some sort of pointed helmet, and it was awesome.

The moustaches were really distracting and it made it harder to tell the tall white men with brown hair apart.

The end credits had a really interesting and pretty light/lens flare design. Usually end credits are just black, or are stylized for only the first part, but these were really pretty the whole way through.

Killer Elite definitely has a gritty feel to it, and it works on a lot of levels by having good acting/casting, good writing, and interesting fights and plot points. Its main failing seems to be the sheer number of characters to keep track of, but obviously they can’t be cut out if they actually existed. But since the Feathermen are such a mystery, who knows what’s true and what’s not?

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J is for… The Jackal

The Jackal, directed by Michael Caton-Jones, is a remake of the 1973 movie The Day of the Jackal, which in turn was based on a book of the same name by Frederick Forsyth.

It’s a loose remake of the 1973 movie, though not as loose as some reviewers claim.

I’ll admit part of my reasoning for choosing The Jackal is my never ending love for Bruce Willis. He does a good job in it, between playing the nice guy people forget, and the crazy guy people wish they never met.

The film starts off with American FBI agents in Moscow killing a member of the Russian mob, and his brother Terek Murad (David Hayman) declares war on the FBI by hiring The Jackal (Bruce Willis), a nameless/faceless assassin whom no one seems to be able to prove exists, to kill a target important to the FBI.

Once the FBI learns that The Jackal has been hired, FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier) and Russian Police Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) realize there’s only one person who can help them find The Jackal. But, the only person who knows where she (Isabella) is is an ex-IRA member who’s in prison for small arms dealing. Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere) admits he also has seen The Jackal and can help the investigation, and agrees to help if the FBI tries to free him, and if Isabella (Mathilda May) is kept safe.

Meanwhile, The Jackal uses a series of false identities to purchase the pieces for and build a huge Gatling gun, and make his way to Washington, DC. Mulqueen and The Jackal finally meet again while The Jackal attempts to shoot his target, which leads to a confrontation in the subway. Of course Mulqueen is victorious, and Preston upholds his part of the bargain by allowing him to escape.

That seems like a watered down version of the plot, but considering a lot of the plot seemed unnecessary, I think it does the movie justice.

Let’s dive in.

 

A is for… Accents

Another action movie where the hero, Mulqueen, has an accent. What stands out is Mulqueen is Irish.

The film opens in Moscow, so a lot of people have Russian accents. In a nice nod to the real world, everyone is actually speaking Russian and there are subtitles to read, rather than everyone speaking heavily-accented English.

Of course, later on in Helsinki everyone has an accent, as do the people The Jackal converses with in Britain.

Koslova has an accent, one that hindered my comprehension of what she says throughout the movie.

Isabella also has an accent.

Pretty much everyone except Preston and The Jackal has an accent, and even The Jackal fakes a Canadian accent for his false identity.

 

B is for… Bad Guys

Considering the film’s open credit montage is a series of clips about Russian communism, it’s a little strange that the villains in the movie aren’t, in fact, Russian. Aside from Murad hiring The Jackal, the movie has nothing to do with Russia.

But, if Murad is the one pulling the strings, he’s worth mentioning. Murad, upon learning one of his men didn’t kill any American agents, splits the man’s head open with an axe. He explains to everyone else that the man was like a brother to him and he got no joy from killing him. So, what would he do to the other men? Murad views the FBI killing his brother as an act of war, and so hires The Jackal to kill a target very important to the FBI. Initially they think it’s the head of the FBI, but it turns out he’s targeting the First Lady. He’s also in touch with The Jackal throughout the mission, because he informs him that Mulqueen is on the case.

The Jackal himself is an American with military training who has spent his professional career killing people and creating false identities in order to do it. He’s very methodical and displays absolutely no remorse for killing anyone. He and Mulqueen crossed paths in the past, when The Jackal wounded Isabella and she miscarried Mulqueen’s baby.

 

C is for… Chases

It can be argued the whole film is a chase scene, because the FBI and Mulqueen are trying to hunt down The Jackal. …it’s a very slow chase scene, with not a whole lot of chasing going on all the time.

Mulqueen briefly chases The Jackal through the harbor in Chicago, but it’s on foot and The Jackal is able to get away pretty easily.

After The Jackal fails to kill the First Lady, he escapes to the subway, where Mulqueen is able to follow him. They run down the tracks and up to another platform, where they have their final stand off.

 

D is for… Damsels

The movie is thankfully light on Damsels. There’s Koslova, the mannish Russian police major, who seems to have her act together yet when faced with The Jackal shooting other agents in Isabella’s house she shoots randomly and ineffectively, then gets shot through the couch. She had explained to Mulqueen that she never had time for a husband or family, using the burn on her face as an excuse, or maybe it’s just a representation of her duties to her job and country.

Isabella, Mulqueen’s partner and former lover, is able to help with information on The Jackal and never becomes a hindrance. She winds up helping Mulqueen more than any of the federal agents. She has a husband and family, though still may love Mulqueen.

 

E is for… Explosions

While testing his new Gatling, The Jackal explodes a station wagon.

During the assassination scene, a Marine shoots the gas tank on the minivan housing the Gatling, then shoots it again so it explodes. It’s certainly an effective way to stop the weapon from firing.

 

F is for… Flashbacks

There aren’t any flashbacks, but it can be argued they would have helped to establish Mulqueen’s and The Jackal’s past together.

 

G is for… Guns

The IMFDB has details.

The SWAT guys storming the club in Moscow have their weapons.

Murad’s henchman is shot with what appears to be a nonlethal beanbag so he can be interrogated for information. He’s the one who lets the name “The Jackal” slip.

The Jackal orders—through a computer—a 7.62mm M134 Electric Gatling gun. He settles on a Polish ZSU-33 14.5mm, which fires 1400 rounds per minute. He mounts it in the back of a minivan. It’s controlled by a computer that can be operated remotely using a cellphone connection, and has a camera with a long range zoom lens on it to help with aiming. The weapon is long-range and rapid fire, which The Jackal wants because he wants the assassination to be “public and brutal.” It’s overkill, really. So to speak. Especially considering he doesn’t hit his target.

The Jackal also has a handgun he carries with him.

Mulqueen uses a high powered rifle while in the Marine helicopter, and also while on a building. He uses it to shoot the camera off of the Gatling. Surely he was trying to shoot the actual gun, but it stops The Jackal long enough that he can’t finish the job.

Mulqueen and The Jackal face off in the subway with handguns.

Shootouts include the opening scene in the club, Koslova and The Jackal in the harbor, Koslova and The Jackal in Isabella’s house, and the final confrontation in the subway.

 

H is for… Helicopters

Preston and Mulqueen hop an FBI helicopter for a ride to Isabella’s house once they realize The Jackal will be targeting her. Do they not try to call the house to let Koslova and the other agents know The Jackal knows where they are?

Mulqueen rides an awesome Marine helicopter to DC.

 

I is for… Improvisation

This movie is pretty straight forward with its use of guns, but the Gatling is pretty impressive.

I wish there had been more of Mulqueen doing awesome things. He seemed like a really with-it guy, and also one who could be really creative when he had to be.

 

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

There is, sadly, no falling or leaping through windows, walls, doors, floors, etc in The Jackal.

 

K is for… Kill Count

Generally the kill count is supposed to be for the hero picking off henchman and such, but Mulqueen doesn’t kill anyone and The Jackal, for all he’s supposed to be a shadow, leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.

Ian Lamont (Jack Black), who engineered the Gatling and mount for The Jackal, basically gets blown to pieces by it when The Jackal objects to Lamont trying to get more money from him. Notably, had the sighting not been off (three millimeters to the left) he might have been allowed to live. Instead he gets his arm blown off and then gets shot multiple times.

Once The Jackal learns where Isabella lives, he heads to her home and kills all three agents protecting the place. The one gets shot through the stairs while The Jackal is in the closet underneath them. The other gets shot in the head. And of course Koslova wastes her rounds shooting into a bookcase, only to be shot through the only possible barrier The Jackal had in the open living room.

He goes back to the home of the guy he picked up in the gay bar and shoots him when he recognizes him as the guy in the drawing on TV. It’s never really explained why he chose him and used his home in the first place.

He kills a guard in the subway while storming through it to get away from Mulqueen.

 

L is for… Limitations

If the entirety of the FBI is counted, the obvious limitation is that no one knows what The Jackal looks like or who he is. Instead, an ex-IRA sniper who’s in an American prison is the only person that knows anything.

Mulqueen’s limitations include he has to listen to the FBI agents and not make waves. He’s also not seen The Jackal in years, and so has to age him mentally in order to recognize him. This isn’t stated in the film, but it has to be true. He also may be hampered by his love of Isabella.

 

M is for… Motivation

Unsurprisingly, The Jackal is motivated by money. He’ll seemingly get enough from killing the First Lady that he can retire. Especially in 1997, $70 million goes a long way.

Mulqueen’s motivation is his personal feelings towards The Jackal, and if he helps he may get his freedom.

The FBI of course wants to save the life of The Jackal’s target, be it the head of the FBI or the First Lady.

 

N Is for… Negotiation

Part of the Jackal’s success seems to be the professional way in which he does things. He always negotiates half a payment up front with the balance due upon completion.

Isabella is offered a pardon and no one learns of her whereabouts if she helps find The Jackal.

Mulqueen’s negotiation requires a few steps. At first he’s only offered transfer to a minimum security prison, and he says he’ll do it only if Isabella is kept safe and he’s let go back to Ireland a free man. He settles on getting Preston’s best efforts to get him free. To help in his bargaining he admits he’s seen The Jackal himself and knows his face and methods.

In a separate conversation with Preston, Mulqueen wants to get out of prison and promises he won’t take off. He also wants to get the chance to see Isabella, and get a decent razor.

Lamont gives The Jackal a price for the gun mount, and The Jackal negotiates for a lower price with simply a glare.

Lamont tries to negotiate for more money to keep him quiet about whatever The Jackal plans to do with his assault canon he built for him. This was not a good idea.

 

O is for… One Liners

Preston: It’s never easy taking a life, but you saved one, too. Mine.

Mulqueen: The entire government wants me dead. Yet here I am.

Mulqueen: Pardon my language. I’ve been in prison.

Preston: Go along, and we’ll get along.

Koslova, to Mulqueen: They always make a mistake somewhere. Isn’t that how you got caught?

The Jackal, to Lamont: I told you it was off.

 

P is for… Profession

The Jackal is a professional assassin who is said to be very good at his job, and throughout most of the movie he seems to be good at his job. He uses many IDs, disguises, and bank accounts, and is always moving. Mulqueen clarifies that The Jackal always uses four false identities, three of which he keeps on him and one that’s in a dropbox. He has quick-change paint to disguise his minivan and keeps extra sets of license plates. He puts himself into his roles entirely, including affecting accents and picking up guys in bars. The problem is that he goes kind of crazy at the end, which seems totally at odds with the way he’s described and depicted throughout the entire movie.

Declan Mulqueen was an IRA sharp shooter, and he’s serving time for small weapons. He knows Isabella and her whereabouts, which is why he’s needed on the case, but because he’s also seen The Jackal he can be used. He is viewed as a terrorist not to be given freedoms. He seems to be a rather likable terrorist, in any case.

The FBI is hunting The Jackal using the Social Security Numbers he’s been stealing, and identity theft he’s been doing. It’s Mulqueen who points out that the FBI must have a mole, who proceeds to put Isbaella’s name and address in the file, which leads to The Jackal going to her home and killing the agents there. He tells Koslova to tell Mulqueen he can’t protect his women, which leads Mulqueen to realize The Jackal’s target is the First Lady, not the head of the FBI.

 

Q is for… Quagmire

At the end, with Mulqueen and The Jackal on the subway platform, Mulqueen has no gun, no backup, and of course can’t expect mercy as The Jackal stands above him ready to shoot his own gun. As movie watchers the audience expects something to happen to interrupt The Jackal, but Mulqueen obviously can’t expect that.

 

R is for… Reality/Suspension of Disbelief

Overall the film is fairly real-world without a lot of fantastical elements to the action. However, it does seem a little easy for the FBI to track down The Jackal with SSNs and such, considering he’s been a shadow for so many years.

 

S is for… Sidekicks

If Mulqueen is the hero, that makes the FBI his sidekicks, but they’re all pretty useless.

Isabella is a much better sidekick, even though she doesn’t have a big part in the film. She knows The Jackal well enough to describe him as “ice with no feeling.” She also knows he’s American. She tells Mulqueen of a locker with a passport and ten thousand dollars for him to use to run away. She ultimately, of course, also saves the day by getting into the subway and shooting The Jackal.

 

T is for… Technology

The Jackal uses a computer that has voice recognition software to order his supplies. He also uses a cybercafé to instant message someone, perhaps Murad. He logs on using a modem.

The Gatling is controlled using a cellphone.

It’s notable that the film takes place before surveillance was seemingly everywhere, before 9/11, before it was hard to move through a city without being on camera somewhere.

 

U is for… Unexpected Romance

Mulqueen seems to have a thing for Koslova, but it could just be that she’s likely the first woman’s he’s interacted with in a long time. He also seems to have chemistry with everything. There doesn’t seem to be a happy ending with Isabella, considering she’s married and has a family, though if they could have one together, they likely would.

 

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

Usually this category is for cars being used to run people over, motorcycles being used to light things on fire, stuff like that, but it’s worth mentioning that a regular minivan is turned into an assault vehicle when that Gatling is mounted in the back. Imagine The Jackal driving around the city while firing that thing.

 

W is for… Winning

Mulqueen and The Jackal face off in the subway. The Jackal—absolutely losing his established “cool” —takes a hostage and prepares to shoot Mulqueen. After Mulqueen puts down his weapon and the hostage is released, Isabella comes up and shoots The Jackal in the throat. While going down he shoots Mulqueen. As Isabella and Mulqueen have a weepy moment, The Jackal pulls out another gun to use to shoot Mulqueen, but Mulqueen beats him to it and shoots him multiple times.

In a personal victory, Preston gives Mulqueen the chance to escape.

 

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

The Jackal gets shot in the leg, but of course he keeps going. Mulqueen actually follows the blood trail to find where he went.

 

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

The FBI, CIA, NSA, whoever would be responsible for locating The Jackal, has failed miserably. Had he been apprehended earlier, perhaps when Mulqueen had initially fought with him, he couldn’t shoot the First Lady.

Had The Jackal not hurt Mulqueen and Isabella in the past, perhaps they wouldn’t have been motivated to hunt him down this time. Or go all the way and kill them, rather than toy with them if that’s what he did. The story that could be told about The Jackal’s first run-in with Mulqueen and Isabella would probably be more interesting than the story actually told in The Jackal.

 

Z is for… Zone, in the

Mulqueen is shown to be at least somewhat in the zone throughout the film, as he pieces together what The Jackal is doing.

 

The Jackal is not a terrible movie, but it seems to be one of those examples of a good idea with a bad execution. I’d rather the story focus more on Mulqueen hunting down The Jackal, with the FBI angle maybe cut out entirely. You know the way in which John McClane is brought in to deal with Simon in Die Hard With a Vengeance? Perhaps a story like that would have been more engaging. Richard Gere is great as Mulqueen, and it would have been nice to focus more on him without Preston and Koslova getting in the way.

 

Just a few more points:

What the heck is with the communism montage during the credits? Mulqueen isn’t fighting Stalin in the movie, and it doesn’t take place during the Cold War. Just because it opens in Moscow and a Russian mobster orders the hit doesn’t mean it’s all about communism.

I really, really wanted subtitles to read while taking notes, because the first time through I had trouble understanding what was being said. Partially this was because of the accents, particularly Koslova’s, but also because the audio just seemed muffled on the DVD. Somehow, though, the DVD didn’t have subtitles, which was rather disappointing.

After The Jackal buys his boat, there’s a sequence of him unfurling the sails, enjoying the water, whatever he’s doing, with this strange triumphant music playing. Why on earth is there triumphant, happy music as we watch an assassin hang out on his boat?

Randomly, at 01:50:50 into the movie, as Mulqueen is stalking down the subway platform and people are running for cover, there’s a woman running into a newsstand back behind Mulqueen. While she’s the one that drew my attention, it’s the guy jogging back after her who then nonchalantly slows down and turns to find his place in the newsstand that made me want to mention it. I can almost hear him thinking, “Okay, I ran into the newsstand like I was told, so my part in this scene is done. Let me take my seat.” I guess no one told him to act like a scared commuter facing down gunfire until the director yelled “cut.” It was just amusing, but drew me away from the scene.

All of this being said, the movie is better upon a second viewing when it’s more clear what’s happening. Gere really is good as Mulqueen, and Willis gets to play a bad guy, which he doesn’t often do. They’re so interesting the movie should really focus more on them in a cat-and-mouse situation rather than involve the Russian mob and the FBI and everything else.

I also watched The Day of the Jackal to compare the two movies. It’s true the 1973 film is more engaging in many ways, and really shows the methodology behind what The Jackal and also the lawmen are doing to complete their jobs. The aspects of The Jackal using multiple identities, stealing identities, constantly moving, and going to a gunsmith and id maker, and doing the “half now, half upon completion” payment method are the same. The Jackal also makes some bizarre choices like sleeping with a woman at her home, and giving his (fake) name out to a lot of people. Unlike in The Jackal, in The Day of the Jackal there don’t seem to be extraneous characters that could be cut out for simplicity’s sake. It was also really interesting to see Scotland Yard and the French police figuring out The Jackal’s past and future steps by analyzing his identification documents he falsified, and downright having some lucky breaks. All in a time before computers and online databases.

Other than long shot times that were more common if not customary at the time the movie was filmed, the only complaint I have is that even though the film takes place mostly in France, everyone speaks with an English accent, so it’s impossible to tell where anyone is or who they are. When someone with a British accent is talking about the people from Scotland Yard as if they’re foreigners, and the term “working abroad” is used with respect to France and England, it’s very confusing.

I will end on this question regarding The Day of the Jackal: what the heck is up with The Jackal’s cravat/neckerchief/bandana? It was the most distracting thing I’ve seen in a movie since the explosion of lens flares in 2009’s Star Trek. I kept noticing when he had new ones, and repeated previous ones, and wasn’t wearing one at all. Such an odd costume choice. If it’s part of his disguise as Duggan, why not choose something less strange like suspenders or hats? Unless it was to draw attention away from what he looked like by giving people a removable feature to focus on and remember. But then if someone says, “It was the man with the cravat,” he’d be easily spotted.

I is for… I Don’t Have an “I” Movie

I tried to have an “I” movie.  I really did.

 

But then Interceptor was pulled from Hulu and unavailable from the library, and Ice Station Zebra had some interesting moments but didn’t have near enough action.  It was also difficult to tell if the main character was the captain of the submarine, or the submarine itself.  It did support my theory that a contemporary “action” movie is very different from an older action movie (which in my head is pre-1980).  Modern movies have a lot more violence and guns, and generally move at a much faster pace.  The first five minutes of Ice Station Zebra were musicThere were “Overture” and “Intermission” titlecards, which would certainly never be in a contemporary action film!

 

So, I shall be moving on to The Jackal, which I’ll have posted in a day or two.

 

If there are “I” action movies out there that I’d be able to get my hands on, please let me know!