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USA 1989
Directed by
David Jones
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Although a tad self-conscious at times, this entrant into the category of America's domestic post-Vietnam trauma films is a small gem with wonderful performances by Robert De Niro (who starred in one of the best-known of the genre, The Deer Hunter,1978) Kathy Baker and Ed Harris in what is in effect a three-hander.

Based on a stage play, Strange Snow, by Stephen Metcalfe who also wrote the screenplay which is well-translated to the screen with impressive realism by David Jones, it tells the story of Megs (De Niro) a hot-head who turns up at the home of Dave (Harris) his former buddy in Vietnam and his biology teaching sister, Martha (Baker). Although both men are scarred by their memories of the war with Dave drowning his pain in drink, Megs is trying to work through them and Martha offers some kind of way forward for him.

Plot-wise the film is a little shaky (aside from the fact that it is not clear how long after the war these events are occurring Megs initially claims to have driven 2,500 miles to see Dave but he appears to live in the same town and when Megs breaks a glass pane in Dave and Martha's house, the former never even remarks on it and so on) and it is perhaps a little too neat in its resolution for some tastes. Nevertheless Jacknife is an exceptional film for its unvarnished honesty and the intensity of its performances. If De Niro is typically effective he is also well-within his comfort zone as a rough diamond charmer with a volatile streak,  Harris as a tormented soul and Baker as his lonely spinster sister are both outstanding.




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