Attentive observers of the sidebar might have noticed that I caught The Jacket over the weekend. If I don’t write about it now, I just might forget it completely. Amiable enough as a genre exercise, The Jacket is ultimately a fluffy, ephemeral B-flick. While containing elements of Jacob’s Ladder, 12 Monkeys, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it ends up falling somewhere between an average episode of Quantum Leap and any episode of Touched by an Angel.
The story doesn’t make much sense, even by the liberal standards one must accord time travel tales. But here goes: After befriending a small child and her mother (Kelly Lynch, looking haggard) along the side of the road, recent Gulf War vet Jack Starks (Adrien Brody, better than the material deserves) manages through a series of unfortunate events to get himself locked up in a mental institution somewhere in what looks to be Stephen King’s Maine. At this asylum, despite the concerns of the resident Good Doctor (Jennifer Jason Leigh, not HST), the staff Bad Doctor (Kris Kristofferson, grizzled-as-ever) insists on pumping patients like Brody and Daniel Craig (crazier here than Rhys Ifans was in Enduring Love) full of drugs and locking them in a morgue cabinet for hours at a time. During one of these sessions, Brody’s Starks finds he can visit “the future” (2007), where he encounters the girl he met by the side of the road…all grown up, Knightley-esque, and troubled to the core (you can tell she’s troubled, I presume, because her mouth is open all the time — Knightley pulls off a decent American accent, but that’s about it.)
Got all that? Well, if it doesn’t make sense on the page, it doesn’t do much better on screen, and there are several more narrative jags to go. I don’t want to give the ending away, because that’s all there really is here, but it has very little to do with the first half of the film, in either tone or content. What begins as a dark psychological thriller — the audience spends a lot of time as a mote in Brody’s eye while he writhes and whimpers in the dark — becomes a rather saccharine (and creepy, given Brody and Knightley’s first meeting) romance along the lines of Always. All in all, The Jacket looks menacing but turns out to be harmless — I guess it might make for a decent enough afternoon rental if you’re bored enough. (And here’s one last tip, Brody, next time you find you can travel back and forth through time, think Biff in Back to the Future II.)