Jackal, The (1997) 
Blu-ray Mystery-Suspense
Written by Noah Fleming   
Friday, 23 April 2010

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Every once in a while it is nice to get a surprise film.  "The Jackal" offers some fun as well as some suspense.  While it is not the most "I have no idea what comes next" film, it does keep you focused on the film throughout.  After all, there is nothing worse than wishing you could turn the film off right?

"The Jackal" was not huge at the box office.  It didn't seem to quite break even with the estimated budget of the film.  However, I'm sure home video sales made the studio a little something extra.

The film involves several world conflicts on the outskirts of an assassination plot.  The FBI teams with Russian law enforcement to bring down a Russian crime boss.  However, when things go awry, the leader of the Russian mob puts a hit out to get back at the FBI.  We are led to believe that the target is the director of the FBI.  The hitman is an unknown quantity.  The assassin is played by Bruce Willis, who does a good job with a role that has a bit of depth.  The problem is that the screenplay does not give the audience enough of this assassin's background throughout the film.  So by the end there are still many facets of this hitman that remain in question.  Seems like there needs to be a prequel to this film.

Matters are complicated further when an ex Irish Republican Army sniper, Declan Mulqueen, is approached by the FBI to help in apprehending this hitman.  Unfortunately, this involves putting someone he cares for deeply at risk and does not secure his freedom from a federal US prison.  Despite the drawbacks, Mulqueen agrees to help the FBI, being one of only a couple people that have actually met this assassin in person.  Once again, there is a history between Mulqueen and the Jackal that we are given some information on, but it almost seems like the audience needs a flashback recreation of the event to really be satisfied.

We follow the Jackal as he makes his way across continents, preparing to take out his target.  His disguises and knowledge are nicely executed by the script, unfolding just as they should.  Richard Gere and Bruce Willis are the highlights of the film, along with a brief, but funny part played by Jack Black.  Parts of the story can drag on, but they still remain interesting as not everything in the story is given away at the outset like many "suspense" films.

The film is presented on Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and a VC-1 encode.  It is stored on a BD-59 disc, which is Universal new one side BD-50 the other side DVD-9 combo discs.  While many might like this combo disc, receiving both a DVD and Blu-ray copy of the film, it seems completely unnecessary, especially for a catalog title.  I have never like flipper discs, even back in the day when one side was widescreen and the other standard screen.  The only way to distinguish the sides is by reading the print around the inner circle of the disc.  But what I don't like most is the fact that each side of the disc is now a readable side, making you have to be extra careful with the disc handling.  On the presentation side of things there is something comforting about have a title side with the logo and film title.  But maybe that's just me.

The video quality is above average, but not the best catalog transfer that I have seen.  The source print is not in the greatest of shape.  While it seems okay at first, the final sequence of the film is the tell-all.  The amount of scratches and dust/dirt is disgraceful.  It is like someone forgot to clean the last reel of film or something.  Aside form that, film grain is present but never really distracting expect for a couple of instances.  The black levels have some crushing but only in certain sequences.  Shadow delineation is where this video transfer really fails for me.  Details disappear from any dark scene.  However, when the proper circumstances prevail, the details and textures are quite nice.  They are not razor sharp by any means, but certainly an upgrade from the DVD.  Fleshtones are average with what seems to be a slight oversaturation.  This stands out because the colors are muted, by intention of course.  The film does take place in overcast places like Montreal.  Overall, a solid upgrade that will please many fans but leaves Blu-ray lovers slightly disappointed.

"The Jackal" is a 1997 film and therefore one of the few members of the LaserDisc club.  In fact, it was one of the earliest releases to receive a DTS audio track.  The Blu-ray has been upgraded to a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.  It seems like from the start the surround channels are going to active throughout.  Sadly, the surrounds tend to dissipate over time, returning to a front heavy mix.  However, when there are large crowds and gunfire the surrounds do come alive.  And when they do, directionality is a bit of an issue but panning is quite good.  The LFE channel is hit or miss.  It is easily forgotten.  The dialogue is clear but mixed perhaps a bit lower than by today's standards.  Dynamics are not expansive by more than adequate.  Listening to this film is not going to blow you away, but will certainly appease.

Sadly, the Blu-ray does not contain all the bonus materials of the original LaserDisc.  It does retain the director audio commentary and "The Making of 'The Jackal'" featurette.  However, it loses the alternate ending and production stills.  Perhaps these will be made available in the BD-Live section.

"The Jackal" is not a perfect film but it is entertaining.  The video quality is not the bet but quite good for a catalog title.  The audio quality is more pleasing however.  I recommend this title or at least renting it if you are not sure whether you actually like the film.
Studio Universal Studios Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating R
Starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Verona, Jack Black, J.K. Simmons, Mathilda May, Tess Harper
Director Michael Caton-Jones
Film Release Year 1997
Release Year 2010
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Running Time 2 hrs. 5 mins.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 5.1
Subtitles English SDH
Special Features Director Audio Commentary; Making-of featurette; BD-Live; BR/DVD Flipper Disc
Forum Link http://www.avrev.com/forum
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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