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USA 2010
Directed by
Barry Levinson
131 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

You Don't Know Jack

Originally developed as a feature film this HBO telemovie about controversial doctor and euthanasia practitioner, the infamous ‘Dr Death’, Jack Kevorkian, is as good as any mainstream feature film thanks to Adam Mazer thoughtful script, Barry Levinson's focussed direction and a tip-top cast (and, ultimately,a $18m budget). in the lead is Al Pacino, stepping beyond his familiar potty-mouthed schtick with a humanizing portrayal of the eccentric proselytizer of “assisted suicide”.

Of course, in all such “true” stories we assume that what we see in screen is accurate but certainly as far as this goes, Kevorkian’s pragmatism seems to be borne out – his mission was to ease suffering and this is much more than can be said for the Establishment. Some might find the film, despite clearly showing the depersonalized side of this character overly sympathetic to Kevorkian in not probing the grey areas of the issue but personally I find any ideology which celebrates the sanctity of life then enthusiastically pursues wholesale murder in the name of God, as the Americans have so patently done in Iraq (or indeed Christianity in general), completely compromised and this contradiction is very much at the heart of Levinson’s film and Kevorkian’s frustration.

Susan Sarandon, Danny Huston and John Goodman along with Brenda Vaccaro all provide solid support to Pacino’s compelling performance in a film of quietly controlled and gripping intensity.

: Ben Kingsley was originally attached to play Kevorkian who died aged 83 in June 2011 of natural causes.




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