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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Day of the Jackal, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"As Arid as the Saharan Desert"
1 stars

Hopelessly inept from start to finish.

Terminally boring beyond all belief, The Day of the Jackal is hands down the most listless political thriller of all-time, and what's truly scary about it all is the majority of critics giving it their highest rankings and four-star ratings. Apparently, if a director streamlines a narrative with no blatant embarrassing hiccups, then the overall whole must be highly commendable, yes? Wrong. The movie is based on the best-selling novel by the talented Frederick Forsythe (the mercenaries-for-hire The Dogs of War is his masterpiece) and involves a rebel faction of the French OAS division with a dastardly plot to take out their president because of his allowing Algerian refugees to take solace in their homeland. They hire the suave, legendary British assassin code-named the Jackal (an engaging Edward Fox) for half a million pounds to get the job done, and from here things are intercut between the Jackal's methodical plans to carry out the job and the goings-on of the country's top super-sleuth Lebel (stiff-as-an-ironing-board Michael Lonsdale) to locate him before it's too late. That's it for the plot, which itself wouldn't necessarily be detrimental if the screenplay were dexterously layered and the execution of it engineered with propulsive aplomb, but the writers have unwisely truncated a good deal of the novel's context, and director Fred Zinnenann's handling is so indifferent to the genre he reduces everything to its barest qualities so you have nothing to enjoyably respond to. The Day of the Jackal is the very definition of rudimentary, with one poorly shaped scene after another and enough in the way of plot holes as to make it the equivalent of a shotgunned Swiss cheese. The dialogue is direly rote, the lighting drab, the editing clunky, the compositions amateurish (despite not being filmed hand-held, a good many of the shots are inexplicably shaky, and there isn't so much as a single expressive image to be found), the entire ratiocination of it all subject to a hundred spankings. The only element it has in its favor is the fascinating performance by Fox in the title role. Handsome with swept-back dark blonde hair, Fox isn't your usual cinematic villain, and there doesn't seem to be so much as a single moment when this standout thespian isn't agog over strutting his considerable stuff. He's magnetic throughout; if only this DOA dog could say the same thing. I never thought I'd be praising Costa-Gavras' over-the-top, uncouth 1969 Z, but at least it had a visceral intensity that clung. By the same token, The Day of the Jackal is so affectless and impersonal it's a wonder it managed to stick to the celluloid to where a mere stiff wind could knock it completely over and obliterate it down to nothing.

The 1997 Bruce Willis/Richard Gere remake is much better.

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originally posted: 01/19/20 13:44:02
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User Comments

5/17/20 Carl Bruun Either this review is satire or the reviewer is a hack. 5 stars
2/18/20 Jack Oh look, "Jack Sommersby" is back with his Roger Ebert chip on his shoulder. Hack. 5 stars
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  30-Jul-1973 (PG)



Directed by
  Fred Zinnemann

Written by
  Kenneth Ross

  Edward Fox
  Michael Lonsdale
  Alan Badel
  Tony Britton
  Cyril Cusack

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