Dir: John Maybury. US/UK.2005. 102 mins.
An intriguing hybrid oftime travel thriller, asylum horror movie and visual arts experiment, TheJacket may ultimately fail in its ambitions to fuse those genres but itremains an engaging and original entertainment which has the potential to tapinto a medium to wide audience on its opening weekends around the world.
Don't expect numbers alongthe lines of The Grudge or The Ring. Weekend two will see bigdrop-offs as word gets out among the teen crowd that there are no cheapthrills, and among adult fans of unsettling horror that there are very fewchills.
But it is not the arthousefilm which its premiere slot at Sundance last weekend and the artsy credentialsof director John Maybury may suggest, and distributors shouldn't rely oncritical support, which will be mixed.
Accordingly, it will bereleased in the US on 1,000 to 1,200 screens on March 4, an opening which marksthe first wide release for Warner Independent Pictures (WIP). The division ismarketing it as a smart psychological thriller, using enigmatic quotes from themovie like the opening line - "I was 27 years old the first time I died."
The project has been aroundfor many years. Co-writer Marc Rocco and Antoine Fuqua were both once attachedto direct at Mandalay's former home Paramount before the project moved toSection Eight home Warner Bros and Maybury was brought on board. Thennewly-Oscared Adrien Brody took on the lead role in late 2003 after MarkWahlberg dropped out.
The film also represents aclassic example of new independent financing. It was shot in Scotland(effectively doubling for rural Vermont) with the assistance of Scottish Screenand Glasgow Film Office, was co-financed by international sales throughMandalay partner Summit Entertainment, domestic partner Warner, Todd Wagner andMark Cuban's equity outfit 2929 Entertainment and the VIP media fund inGermany.
The results show no sign of"too many cooks". Maybury, whose last feature was critics' favourite Love IsThe Devil in 1998, exhibits a firm hand in the director's chair with hisfirst stab at a mainstream US movie.
The Jacket opens in the First Gulf War in 1991 where US marinesergeant Jack Starks (Brody, giving another convincingly haunted performance)is shot in the head and returned to the US with shock-related amnesia. After heis released from hospital, he travels to his native Vermont.
A year later, whilehitch-hiking down a snowbound highway, he helps a drunk woman (Lynch) and hereight year-old daughter Jackie jumpstart their car, then hitches a ride with ayoung man (Renfro). Shortly afterwards, the car is pulled over by a cop (SexAnd The City's Jason Lewis) and Starks blacks out. When he wakes up, thecop is dead, a gun is in his hand and he is put on trial for murder.
Because of his militaryhistory, he is found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a stateinstitution for the criminally insane called Alpine Grove.
There he is subjected to aseries of brutal experimental treatments by the steely Dr Becker(Kristofersson). Injected with mind-altering drugs and strapped into anall-over-body straight-jacket, he is placed in a corpse drawer in the basementmorgue for hours at a time.
In the drawer, he regainsflickers of his past and the cop shooting before being transported 15 yearsinto the future to 2007 and befriending a cynical. hard-drinking young woman(Knightley) who, it emerges, is the young girl Jackie from the day of theshooting. Eventually she remembers him and together they discover that Jackwill die on New Year's Eve 1992, just days away from his present. Jack goesback and forth from present in 1992 to future in 2007 to discover how he diesand how much he can change the past to alter the future.
The over-ambitiousscreenplay misses the mark on several counts, notably the inclusion of anincongruously conservative subtext whereby Jesus-like Sparks becomes thespreader of love and conformity.
Maybury's background as avisual artist is evident in the striking scenes of hallucination and flashbackwhile Sparks is entombed in the jacket. He fails, however, to maximize theclaustrophobic terror of the coffin as witnessed in Sluizer's The Vanishingor Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol 2.
Knightley pouts and snarlsineffectually as the Goth girl love interest, and pales next to Brody'sbrooding charisma, although a strong supporting troupe led by Kristofferson,Leigh and Craig keeps the hospital scenes lively.
Prod cos: Section Eight, Mandalay Pictures in associationwith 2929 Entertainment, co-produced with VIP Medienfonds 2, VIP Medienfonds 3,MP Pictures in association with Rising Star.
US dist: Warner Independent Pictures
Int'l sales: Summit Entertainment
Exec prods: Ori Marmur, Peter E Strauss, Ben Cosgrove, Jennifer Fox,Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Andy Grosch, Chris Roberts.
Prods: Peter Guber, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh.
Scr: Massy Tadjedin, from a story by Tom Bleecker & Marc Rocco.
DoP: Peter Deming.
Prod des: Alan MacDonald.
Ed: Emma Hickox.
Mus: Brian Eno.
Main cast: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson,Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Daniel Craig.