The Jackal (1997 film)

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The Jackal
Jackal film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Produced by
Screenplay by Chuck Pfarrer
Story by Chuck Pfarrer
Based on The Day of the Jackal
by Kenneth Ross
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Jim Clark
Mutual Film Company
Alphaville Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • November 14, 1997 (1997-11-14)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $60 million[1]
Box office $159.3 million[1]

The Jackal is a 1997 American political action thriller film directed by Michael Caton-Jones, and starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, and Sidney Poitier (in his final film appearance to date). The film, which is a loose remake of the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal, involves the hunt for a paid assassin.


A joint mission of the American FBI and the Russian MVD leads to the death of the younger brother of an Azerbaijani mobster (David Hayman). In retaliation, the mobster hires an enigmatic, cold-blooded, sociopathic assassin known only by the pseudonym "The Jackal" (Bruce Willis) to kill an unidentified target. The Jackal demands $70 million for the job, to which the mobster agrees. Meanwhile, the MVD capture one of the mafia's henchmen. During interrogation by torture, the henchman reveals the name "Jackal". This, coupled with the documents recovered from the henchman's briefcase, leads the FBI and MVD to assume the target for the retaliatory hit is FBI Director Donald Brown (John Cunningham).

As the Jackal begins his preparations for the assassination—utilising a series of disguises and stolen IDs in the process—the FBI learns of one person who can identify him. FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston (Sidney Poitier) and Russian Police Major Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora) turn to a former Irish Republican Army sniper named Declan Mulqueen (Richard Gere), who had a relationship with an ETA militant named Isabella Zancona (Mathilda May), who they believe can identify The Jackal. Mulqueen eventually agrees to help in exchange for their best efforts to get him released from prison.

It later transpires that Mulqueen has a personal motive for hunting the Jackal: the assassin wounded Zancona while she was pregnant with Mulqueen's child, causing a miscarriage. Zancona provides information that can help identify the Jackal, including the fact that he is American and that he had acquired military training in El Salvador. Meanwhile, the Jackal arrives in Montreal to pick up the weapon he intends to use for the assassination, evading a group of hijackers in the process (one of whom is killed by an unknown poison sprayed on the Jackal's car when he tries to access the vehicle), and hires gunsmith Ian Lamont (Jack Black) to design and build a mount for it. Underestimating the threat represented by the assassin, Lamont demands more money in exchange for keeping quiet. Ironically, the Jackal brutally murders Lamont with the very equipment he built. The FBI eventually discovers Lamont's body and, with Mulqueen's help, deduce that the Jackal intends to utilize an extreme-range heavy machine gun for the assassination.

With the help of a Russian mole in the FBI, the Jackal realizes that he is being tracked by Mulqueen with assistance from Zancona, and he infiltrates Zancona's house after receiving a FBI access code from his insider. Instead of Zancona, however, he finds Koslova and Agents Witherspoon (J.K. Simmons) and McMurphy (Richard Lineback); promptly killing the latter two while mortally wounding the former. The Jackal taunts Koslova by saying that Mulqueen "can't protect his women", which she repeats to Mulqueen as she dies.

As the Jackal makes his final preparations, Mulqueen realizes that his target is not Brown, but rather, the First Lady (Tess Harper), who is due to give a major public speech. The Jackal, now disguised as a police officer, plans to shoot the First Lady from his weapon mounted inside his minivan via remote control. Arriving just in time, Mulqueen successfully sabotages the Jackal's weapon, destroying the vehicle in the process, while Preston absorbs a volley of gunfire meant for the First Lady. After a cat-and-mouse chase through the subway and subway tunnels, the Jackal takes a young woman hostage, only releasing her when he has Mulqueen at his mercy. Unbeknownst to the Jackal, however, Mulqueen has summoned Zancona, who along with Mulqueen shoots the assassin dead.

A few days later, Preston and Mulqueen stand as the only witnesses to the Jackal's burial in an unmarked grave. Preston reveals that he is going back to Russia to pursue the mobsters who hired the Jackal. It is revealed that Mulqueen's request to be released was denied, but that he will likely be moved to a minimum security prison. Preston's heroics in saving the First Lady have made him a golden boy in the FBI: he can now "screw everything else up for the rest of his life and still be untouchable", for which he credits Mulqueen. After exchanging a farewell, and knowing his current clout will prevent any real backlash against him, Preston turns his back on Mulqueen, allowing him to go free.



Fred Zinnemann, director of The Day of the Jackal, fought with Universal Pictures to change the title of the film so that it would not share the original's name. Frederick Forsyth, who wrote the novel on which the first film was based, also publicly distanced himself from the remake. As a result, the title of the film was shortened and Forsyth's name was removed from the credits; it is instead credited as being "based on the motion picture screenplay The Day of the Jackal by Kenneth Ross."[2]

Much of the film was shot on location in Richmond, Virginia, but some scenes were shot on location in Montreal (and its subway stations), Charleston, South Carolina, Chicago, Illinois (sailing scenes) and Helsinki and Porvoo in Finland.


Critical response[edit]

The film received mostly negative reviews from critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a "glum, curiously flat thriller";[3] Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "more preposterous than thrilling";[4] and Russell Smith of the Austin Chronicle called it "1997's most tedious movie".[5] The Jackal currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews.[6] Metacritic gave the film a score of 36 out of 100 based on 20 reviews.[7]

Box office[edit]

The Jackal was released on November 14, 1997, with an opening weekend totaling $15,164,595.[1] It would go on to gross $159,330,280 worldwide. Against its $60m budget, the film was a financial success.


The original score for "The Jackal" was composed by Carter Burwell. It was never officially released on CD, although Burwell uploaded select cues from the film to his website. The project was not a happy experience for Burwell; he disliked the script, and disapproved of producer Danny Saber's remix of his score.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Box Office Mojo: The Jackal". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  2. ^ IMDb: Trivia about "The Jackal" Retrieved 2011-08-30
  3. ^ "The Jackal". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  4. ^ Stein, Ruthe (November 14, 1997). "'Jackal' Can't Hide From Absurd Plot / Willis alters look in mishmash thriller". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  5. ^ The Austin Chronicle: Film Listings.
  6. ^ "The Jackal (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes". . Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  7. ^ "The Jackal Reviews - Metacritic". . Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  8. ^ "Carter Burwell - The Jackal". 

External links[edit]