The Jackal (1997 film)

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The Jackal
Jackal film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Caton-Jones
Produced by
Screenplay byChuck Pfarrer
Story byChuck Pfarrer
Based onThe Day of the Jackal
by Kenneth Ross
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyKarl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited byJim Clark
Mutual Film Company
Alphaville Films
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 14, 1997 (1997-11-14)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
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. The film involves the hunt for a paid assassin. It is a loose remake of the 1973 British-French film The Day of the Jackal, which starred Edward Fox and was based on the 1971 novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth. The film earned mostly negative reviews from critics, and grossed $159.3 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.


A joint operation between the FBI and the MVD leads to the death of the younger brother of an Azerbaijani mobster. In retaliation, the mobster hires an international hitman who operates under the codename of the "Jackal" to kill an unidentified important American target. The Jackal demands $70 million for the assignment, to which the mobster agrees. Meanwhile, the MVD capture one of the mafia's henchmen. During the interrogation, the henchman reveals the name "Jackal". This, coupled with documents recovered from his briefcase, leads the FBI and MVD to assume the target for the retaliatory hit is FBI Director Donald Brown.

As the Jackal begins his preparations for the assassination—utilizing 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 and Russian Police Major Valentina Koslova turn to a former IRA sniper named Declan Mulqueen, who had a relationship with an ETA militant named Isabella Zancona, who they believe can identify the Jackal. Mulqueen 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 in Libya 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 has military training and combat experience in Special Operations and was stationed in El Salvador. Zancona gives Mulqueen a key to a drop box that has a clean passport and $10,000 cash for him to go back to Ireland. However, Mulqueen has given Preston his word not to run so that he can find the Jackal.

Meanwhile, the Jackal arrives in Montreal to pick up the weapon he intends to use but is notified by his contacts that a group of hijackers have located and are pursuing his weapon. He kills one of the hijackers using an unknown toxic substance sprayed on his car. After evading them, he hires small-time gunsmith Ian Lamont to design and build a control mount for it, requiring Lamont's silence. Underestimating the threat represented by the assassin, Lamont tries to blackmail him for more money; the Jackal kills him while test-firing the weapon. The FBI discovers Lamont's remains and, with Mulqueen's help, deduce that the Jackal intends to utilize a long-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 her house after receiving an FBI access code from his insider. Instead of Zancona, however, he finds Koslova and Agents Witherspoon and McMurphy. He kills the latter two and mortally wounds the former. The Jackal taunts her by saying that Mulqueen "can't protect his women", which she repeats to Mulqueen before she dies.

As the Jackal makes his final preparations, Mulqueen realizes that his target is not Brown, but rather the First Lady, who is due to give a major public speech at a new Chemotherapy Center. The Jackal, pretending to be gay, dates Douglas, a man he encountered earlier in a bar, in order to put up his machine gun away from prying eyes inside his garage. When a news report then exposes his identity, he kills Douglas. He then attempts to shoot the First Lady via remote control. Arriving just in time, Mulqueen successfully sabotages the Jackal's weapon by shooting the telescopic mount, while Preston absorbs a bullet meant for the First Lady. A sniper then destroys the van in which the gun is positioned. With his plot falling apart, the Jackal flees into a train station. After a cat-and-mouse chase through the subway tunnels, Mulqueen and Zancona both shoot 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 behind the Jackal and that Mulqueen's request to be released was denied, but he will likely be moved to a minimum security prison. Preston's heroics in saving the First Lady have made him a hero in the FBI. Knowing his current clout will prevent any real backlash against him, Preston turns his back on Mulqueen, allowing him to go free.



The film began in production development on August 19 - November 30, 1996, it was filmed in worldwide locations (such as Porvoo, Finland[2]), including its special effects. 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.[3] Bruce Willis successfully fought to keep a same sex kiss in the movie.[4]


Critical response[edit]

The Jackal received a 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. 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."[5] Metacritic gave the film a score of 36 out of 100 based on 20 reviews.[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a "glum, curiously flat thriller";[8] 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."[9] Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "more preposterous than thrilling";[10] and Russell Smith of the Austin Chronicle called it "1997's most tedious movie".[11]

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.[12]

Box office[edit]

The Jackal was released on November 14, 1997, with an opening weekend totaling $15,164,595.[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.[13]

Home media[edit]

The Jackal was released on DVD & VHS (includes the Behind the Scenes footage) in 1998. The Collector's Edition on April 28, 1998 and DTS on April 13, 1999 were also released on DVD. It was also released on Blu-ray on April 27, 2010 with Combo Disc (including the DVD and Digital Copy on June 28, 2011) and re-released on October 10, 2017. A Double-Feature with the film and Mercury Rising were released with Multi-Format on Blu-ray on March 22, 2011.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Jackal". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  2. ^ Post Office action scene - "The Jackal"
  3. ^ Wolk, Josh (November 19, 1997). "Kiss Me Deadly". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on August 18, 2020. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  4. ^ Here Publishing (23 December 1997). "The Advocate". The Advocate : The National Gay & Lesbian Newsmagazine. Here Publishing: 11–. ISSN 0001-8996.
  5. ^ "The Jackal (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
  6. ^ "The Jackal Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
  7. ^ "TURBO A POWER RANGERS MOVIE (1997) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on February 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 14, 1997). "The Jackal". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Stein, Ruthe (November 14, 1997). "'Jackal' Can't Hide From Absurd Plot / Willis alters look in mishmash thriller". The San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Smith, Russell (November 14, 1997). "The Jackal". The Austin Chronicle. Austin, Texas: Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  12. ^ "The Stinkers 1997 Ballot". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Archived from the original on 18 August 2000.
  13. ^ "Carter Burwell - The Jackal".

External links[edit]