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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Jackal (Blu-ray + DVD Combo)

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Kevin EK, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer

    May 9, 2003
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    Studio: Universal
    Year: 1997
    Length:  2 hrs 5 mins
    Genre: Action/Thriller
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    BD Resolution: 1080p
    BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)
    Color/B&W: Color
    DVD side of the disc has a 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer (same one as on the “Collector’s Edition” DVD)
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps) (up to 6.2 mbps in the bigger scenes)
    DVD side of the disc has an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a French 2.0 mix
    Subtitles: English SDH (Blu-ray side), English SDH and Spanish (DVD side)
    Film Rating: R (Strong Violence, Language, Really Inappropriate Use of Artillery)
    Release Date: April 27, 2010
    Starring: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, with a special appearance by Jack Black
    Based (Loosely) on the novel and film “The Day of the Jackal”
    Screen Story and Screenplay by: Chuck Pfarrer
    Directed: Michael Caton-Jones
    Film Rating:    2/5  
    The Jackal is a bit of a head-scratcher, in that it has all the right elements to make an effective suspense thriller, including a ready cast, a foolproof scenario and a satisfying sense of scale. And yet the ingredients don’t add up to what the filmmakers surely intended. The basic story is solid: A vicious but anonymous assassin (Bruce Willis in the title role) is headed to the U.S. to take out a major political figure, while a small FBI team moves to stop him.   And Bruce Willis certainly has a great time here as the bad guy, as does Jack Black in a brief cameo that culminates in possibly the funniest scene of the film. (The fact that this humor may be completely unintentional does not detract from this…) But when you get to the good guys, the film begins to stumble. Sidney Poitier and Diane Venora are both really interesting actors, but they simply aren’t given much to work with here.   Poitier is saddled with perfunctory material as the boss character, and Venora is hidden behind a thick accent, scar tissue, and an overly formal character that never really comes off the screen. More egregious than those two, unfortunately, is the choice to have Richard Gere play the lead role in an Irish accent as an IRA terrorist. (This is exactly the mistake avoided by Sydney Pollack with Robert Redford in Out of Africa.) The procedural aspects of the film also lag a bit, and the film never really catches fire in the way that it clearly wants to. That said, there’s a solid sense of scale on display here, along with a satisfying level of clarity – this movie is not from the quick-cutting or shaky-cam schools, so the viewer can always tell what is going on with relative ease. And, again, Bruce Willis almost makes the whole thing watchable – but it simply isn’t enough to make this film more than an interesting rental for Willis fans.
    The Jackal has previously been released on standard definition DVD twice. The first time was as a Collector’s Edition port of the Signature Laserdisc, albeit with an anamorphic widescreen transfer. The Laserdisc content, including a commentary by director Michael Caton-Jones, and a 45 minute “Making of” assembly was included on the Collector’s Edition DVD along with some production notes. All of this content has been included on this Blu-ray, but ONLY ON THE DVD SIDE. In other words, if you want to watch the movie with the commentary, you will need to turn the Blu-ray over to the other side. If you want to watch the HD transfer of the film with the commentary, you’ll be out of luck.   Another interesting note – the DVD side of this Blu-ray actually IS THE COLLECTOR’S EDITION, INCLUDING THE MENU.   I strongly believe that this Blu-ray is an HD transfer of picture and sound on the HD side of the disc, and a copy of the Collector’s Edition DVD on the SD side. (The other standard definition release of this title, by the way, was a DTS edition that did not include the bonus content.)
    VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½ /5
    The Jackal is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.35:1 transfer that obviously improves on the transfers previously available for the film. Colors are stronger, and many details are clearer, from the scar tissue makeup on Diane Venora to the beard stubble on Richard Gere when we first meet his character. There is a wide range of environments and flesh tones for the transfer to show, and it does nicely with all of them.  I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.   The original anamorphic transfer of the movie is available on the SD side of the disc, which provides a useful comparison with the new transfer.
    The Jackal is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English.   (The SD side of the disc includes the previously-available Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, along with an French Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. The new DTS-HD mix is a lot of fun, throwing music, atmospheric sound and flying bullets into the surround channels, while making frequent use of the subwoofer for the various big bangs that go off as the story unfolds. This is not a mix to crank up after midnight in a quiet neighborhood, to say the least. For comparison purposes, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the SD side of the disc is also an effective mix, but the HD mix is a no-brainer when it comes to choosing. The HD sound mix is probably the single most appealing part of this release.
    SPECIAL FEATURES      2 ½ /5
    The Blu-Ray presentation of The Jackal comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality.  The SD side of the disc, containing the complete Collector’s Edition DVD, includes the commentary and documentary material from that DVD. The HD side of the disc only has BD-Live previews and connectivity.
    Feature Commentary with Director Michael Caton-Jones –  Held over from the Laserdisc and the Collector’s Edition DVD, Michael Caton-Jones’ scene-specific commentary is a pretty solid affair, with Jones recounting many of the details of the production. His play-by-play of the aforementioned Jack Black scene gets points for including that the hijinks happened on Black’s birthday, and that this was not a lot of fun for Black. I give Jones additional points for realizing that the reveal of a big gun doesn’t actually make any sense outside of movie logic. (He notes that if Willis carried and assembled a big gun outside, why would he then throw a tarp over it if he wasn’t leaving? Why, to uncover it for the camera ,of course…)   It is unfortunate that this commentary was not included on the Blu-ray side of the equation.
    The Making of The Jackal – (46:50, 480p, Full Frame) - The complete “Making of” assembly from the Laserdisc and the Collector’s Edition DVD is included here.   Only about 23:50 is actually the “Making of” featurette, and it includes a generous amount of on-set video with Bruce Willis and Jones on various locations. The next 15 minutes or so are a series of deleted scenes along with explanations by Jones as to why they were cut out. The deleted scenes can only be viewed as a single group, with no individual chapters. (The full “Making of” assembly is chaptered, but when it comes to deleted scenes, they are found within a single chapter.) The next 6 ½ minutes are taken up with an Alternate Ending that actually changes only one element of the ending, and then plays out identically with the theatrical version. The final 1:50 is taken up with the film’s trailer. Like the commentary, this material is not available on the Blu-ray side of the disc.
    The original Production Notes from the Laserdisc and the Collector’s Edition DVD, current to 1998, are included along with the other Collector’s Edition content, on the SD side of the disc.   Again, given that the menu is identical to my old 1998 DVD, I conclude that the SD side really is the Collector’s Edition repressed on the back side of the Blu-ray.
    BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. Part of this functionality includes the downloading of various trailers when you first fire up the disc in your player.   On my last viewing of the disc, I was presented with a DVD trailer for It’s Complicated, along with a trailer for Green Zone
    My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.
    The usual promotional ticker is present on the main menu, but can be toggled off at your discretion. The film is subtitled in English on the HD side of the Blu-ray, and English and French on the SD side. The usual pop-up menu is present.   There is an identical chapter list for the movie on both sides of the disc.
    IN THE END...
    The Jackal is a surprising film, in that you’d think it would be a more effective thriller than it turns out to be. It has a refreshing sense of clarity and a fun performance by Bruce Willis, but not much more beyond that to recommend it on its own. The Blu-ray release provides a good picture transfer and a great sound mix, but keeps all the extras including a director’s commentary on the SD side of the disc, which is apparently a re-pressing of the 1998 Collector’s Edition DVD. Fans of Bruce Willis and this kind of thriller will likely want to rent this to see what they think. Fans of Jack Black may also want to rent this for his three scenes, and particularly the last one.  
    Kevin Koster
    April 27, 2010.

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