Jump to content

The Jackal (1997 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Jackal
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Caton-Jones
Screenplay byChuck Pfarrer
Story byChuck Pfarrer
Based onThe Day of the Jackal
by Kenneth Ross
Produced by
CinematographyKarl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited byJim Clark
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 14, 1997 (1997-11-14)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Russian
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$159.3 million[1]

The Jackal is a 1997 American action thriller film directed by Michael Caton-Jones, and starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, and Sidney Poitier in his final theatrically released film role. The film involves the hunt for a paid assassin. It is a loose take on the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal, which starred Edward Fox, and was based on the 1971 novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth. Although the film earned mostly negative reviews from critics, it was a commercial success and grossed $159.3 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.


A joint operation between the FBI and the MVD in Moscow leads to the killing of the younger brother of the Azerbaijani mafia leader Terek Murad. In retaliation, Murad (having executed his brother's minder) hires a former KGB asset, an international hitman operating under the codename "the Jackal", to assassinate an unidentified prominent American for $70 million. Two weeks later, the MVD capture and interrogate one of Murad's henchmen, Viktor Politovsky in Porvoo, Finland, and discover the assassination plot. The interrogation, coupled with recovered documents, leads the FBI and MVD to suspect that FBI Director Donald Brown is the intended target.

Using a series of disguises and stolen IDs, the Jackal prepares for the assassination attempt. FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston and Russian Police Major Valentina Koslova turn to imprisoned IRA sniper Declan Mulqueen for help. They believe that his former lover, a former ETA militant and fugitive named Isabella Zancona, can identify the Jackal. Mulqueen reveals that he knows the Jackal and agrees to help in exchange for his release as well as U.S. citizenship and safe haven for Zancona. Mulqueen and Zancona want revenge on the Jackal after he wounded her in Libya and caused her to miscarry their unborn child. Zancona, now married, provides information to help identify the Jackal, including that he is a United States Army Special Forces veteran with combat experience from his stationing in El Salvador. Zancona discreetly slips Mulqueen a key to a drop box containing a clean passport and $10,000 cash to return to Ireland. However, Preston had earlier warned Mulqueen that if he ever escaped, or otherwise refused to cooperate, he would be shot.

Meanwhile, when the Jackal arrives in Montreal to collect a large caliber weapon, a contact notifies him that hijackers are pursuing it. The Jackal kills one hijacker with an extremely poisonous chemical and evades the others. He then hires Ian Lamont, a mechanic and small-time hoodlum, to build a control mount for the weapon. The Jackal demands that all design specs be turned over to him, and he also requires Lamont's complete confidentiality. When Lamont tries extorting more money, the Jackal kills him during a live-fire test of the weapon. The FBI discovers Lamont's remains and evidence that the Jackal intends to utilize a long-range heavy machine gun for the assassination. The Jackal sails across the Great Lakes to Chicago, where he escapes the FBI and almost kills Mulqueen, leading Mulqueen to deduce there is a mole tipping off the Jackal. They discover that the director of the Russian Embassy in Washington DC gave the Jackal a direct access code to FBI records, allowing him to kill Koslova and Agents Witherspoon and McMurphy (after the "by-the-book" Witherspoon inadvertently gave away their current location by checking in back to HQ). Before dying, Koslova - passing on a taunt from the Jackal - tells Mulqueen that '[Declan] cannot protect his women'.

As the Jackal drives to Washington, D.C., Mulqueen deduces from the Jackal's mocking statement that his target is not Donald Brown, but in fact the First Lady of the United States, who is scheduled to give a public speech. The Jackal, masquerading as a gay man, dates Douglas, a man he encountered earlier in a bar; unbeknownst to Douglas, he uses Douglas's garage to store his machine gun. When a news report exposes the Jackal's identity, he kills Douglas. On the date of the First Lady's speech, the weapon is hidden in a minivan parked near the speaker podium - the Jackal plans to shoot the First Lady via remote control. However, before the Jackal can act, Mulqueen uses a sniper rifle to destroy the weapon's scope and another marksman blows up the van's gas tank. The Jackal blindly opens fire before his vehicle blows up, and Preston is wounded by a bullet that is fired at the First Lady. Following a chase through the Washington Metro tunnels, Zancona shoots the Jackal; however, the Jackal's gun discharges a shot, and Mulqueen is hit. While Zancona consoles Mulqueen, the Jackal, who was merely wounded, pulls another backup gun. Seeing this, Mulqueen grabs Zancona's pistol and shoots the Jackal several times, finally killing him.

A few days later, Preston and Mulqueen witness the Jackal's burial in an unmarked grave. Preston reveals that he is returning to Russia to pursue Murad and his gang until Terek Murad rots in prison or in the grave. He says 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 legend within the FBI: knowing his current clout will prevent any backlash against him, he turns his back on Mulqueen, allowing him to go free.



The film was in production development from August 19 to November 30, 1996. It was filmed in international locations such as Porvoo, Finland,[2] including its special effects. The film began production titled The Day of the Jackal, but the author of the original novel Frederick Forsyth and the director and producer of the original film Fred Zinnemann and John Woolf opposed the production. They eventually filed an injunction to prevent Universal Pictures from using the name of the original novel and film, and it would be marketed as being "inspired by" rather than directly based on Forsyth's novel.[3][4][5] Edward Fox also refused to make a cameo appearance in the film for similar reasons.[6][failed verification]

Chuck Pfarrer had written the first script, he was finishing up a three-year deal at Universal when he was offered the project, Pfarrer initially said no, but he agreed to write the script to fulfill contractual obligations to the studio,[7] then Kevin Jarre did a rewrite to Pfarrer's script, contributing the Richard Gere character, Declan Mulqueen, an imprisoned IRA terrorist who strikes up a bargain to assist the FBI.[8] Caton-Jones later said in an interview with The Washington Post that he regretted not being there to supervise and contribute more to the screenplay:

"I never really liked the script. It was always too long, So I was trying to trim it as I went along and I really made the film in the editing room, stripping a lot of excess away".[9]

An early test-screened version of the film had an innocent man shot by Willis' character hiding out in a gay bar. The audience loudly cheered the killing, which came to the attention of GLAAD. Chaz Bono (the group’s entertainment media director) spoke with Jackal producer Sean Daniel, who arranged to have the scene re-edited.[10] Bruce Willis successfully fought to keep a same-sex kiss in the film.[11]


Home media[edit]

The Jackal was released on VHS, DVD and LaserDisc on April 28, 1998.[12]


Critical response[edit]

The Jackal received a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Jackal is a relatively simple chase thriller incapable of adding thrills or excitement as the plot chugs along."[13] Metacritic gave the film a score of 36 out of 100 based on 20 reviews.[14] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[15]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a "glum, curiously flat thriller";[16] he also included the film in his "Worst of 1997", comparing it to the 1973 film and calling it a "retread", "cruder", and "dumbed down".[17] Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "more preposterous than thrilling";[18] and Russell Smith of the Austin Chronicle called it "1997's most tedious movie".[19]

At the 1997 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, Richard Gere received a nomination for Worst Fake Accent, but he lost to Jon Voight for Anaconda and Most Wanted.[20]

Box office[edit]

The Jackal was released on November 14, 1997, with an opening weekend totaling $15,164,595.[21][1] It went on to gross $159,330,280 worldwide, against a $60 million budget.


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.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Jackal". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Post Office action scene - "The Jackal" - Movie Location". Waymarking.com.
  3. ^ "2nd 'Jackal' raises hackles". Variety. 5 February 1997. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  4. ^ "Helmer takes new shot at 'Jackal'". Variety. 25 September 1997. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  5. ^ "'Jackal' Filmmakers Assail New Film With Classic Title". The Los Angeles Times. 28 October 1996. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  6. ^ "The Day of the Jackal". AFI Catalog. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  7. ^ "The Screenwriter of SEAL Team 6: An Interview with Chuck Pfarrer by Kent Hill". podcastingthemsoftly.com. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  8. ^ "There's Just a Nodding Acquaintance". The Los Angeles Times. 25 October 1997. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  9. ^ "The Jackal and The Running Dogs". The Washington Post. 9 November 1997. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  10. ^ Wolk, Josh (19 November 1997). "Kiss Me Deadly". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 18 August 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  11. ^ Here Publishing (23 December 1997). "The Advocate". The Advocate: The National Gay & Lesbian Newsmagazine. Here Publishing: 11–. ISSN 0001-8996.
  12. ^ "'Boogie Nights' comes to video". The Kansas City Star. 3 April 1998. p. 82. Archived from the original on 8 April 2023. Retrieved 8 April 2023 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  13. ^ "The Jackal (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  14. ^ "The Jackal Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  15. ^ "JACKAL, THE (1997) B-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 6 February 2018.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (14 November 1997). "The Jackal". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  17. ^ Siskel and Ebert: Worst of 1997. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021 – via Youtube.com.
  18. ^ Stein, Ruthe (14 November 1997). "'Jackal' Can't Hide From Absurd Plot / Willis alters look in mishmash thriller". The San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  19. ^ Smith, Russell (14 November 1997). "The Jackal". The Austin Chronicle. Austin, Texas: Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  20. ^ "The Stinkers 1997 Ballot". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Archived from the original on 18 August 2000.
  21. ^ "'Jackal' shoots to No. 1 at weekend box office". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 19 November 1997. p. 69. Archived from the original on 27 November 2022. Retrieved 27 November 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  22. ^ "The Jackal". Carter Burwell.

External links[edit]