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Friday, May 15, 2015

Jack's Back - A Film Review

Jack's Back is a 1988 crime thriller directed by Rowdy Herrington (Road House, Striking Distance) starring James Spader and Cynthia Gibb. Spader performs a dual role as identical twins John and Rick Wesford. The film is about a copycat serial killer imitating Jack the Ripper's murders on the centennial of his murders, killing prostitutes in the Los Angeles area. John Wesford is a nice and idealistic med student who is concerned about the welfare of the city and of his patients at the clinic where he works, much to the jaded dismay of his superiors.. A prostitute gets murdered, and John is blamed for it as the prime suspect. But John then gets murdered himself, and his murder is framed as a suicide. Enter his twin brother Rick, who has visions of his brother's killer. Rick has had a juvenile crime record of gang life and breaking & entering, and wasn't close with John, yet is determined to find his killer. He has a jaded and cynical attitude, yet has a good heart underneath. Also standouts were Cynthia Gibb as the naive love interest and Robert Picardo as the oddball psychologist.

Spader showed a versatile range in his acting ability as his career was rising, playing two characters who are very distinct from one another. At this time in his career, Spader was mostly playing villains in films, and this was an opportunity for him to play two good guys, albeit one who seems untrustworthy on first impression. Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, made this astute statement: "I don’t have any statistics to prove this, but my notion is that actors who play villains early in their careers often turn out to have more interesting careers than those who always play the lead. They find more interesting places inside themselves, and they carry a hint of complexity and secretiveness even into heroic roles." He would go on to play complex characters in films like sex, lies, and videotape, Crash, Secretary, and The Blacklist

The film itself has a sleazy, B-movie noir vibe to it, and is an engaging thriller with some surprises and solid writing and direction from Rowdy Herrington.

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