Isn’t Adrien Brody supposed to be the “It
Boy”? After an incredible breakout performance in Spike
Lee’s Summer of Sam in 1999, his performance
in The Pianist garnered him an Academy Award™ for
Best Actor two years ago; he beat out Jack Nicholson, Michael
Caine, and Nicholas Cage. Since then,
everyone has been singing his huzzahs, and one could be forgiven
for thinking that the vast number of projects being thrown at him
would permit the actor a certain degree of choosiness with regard
to where he practices his craft. But after The Village and
now The Jacket, I can only hope Mr. Brody is saving his
The film finds Jack Starks (Brody) a soldier in the first Gulf
War in the early nineties. After being shot in the head and contracting
amnesia, Jack heads to Vermont, for reasons unexplained to the viewer.
After helping a mother (Lynch) and her little girl
with some car trouble, he keeps moving, hitching for a ride. After
having the bad luck to ride shotgun with a stranger (Renfro)
who kills a police officer, Jack is picked up for the crime and,
because of his amnesia, sentenced to a mental institution.
Upon arriving in the hospital, Jack makes the acquaintance of
one Dr. Becker (Kristofferson), who subjects unwilling
patients to an experimental treatment. The regimen consists of being
pumped full of drugs, put in a straitjacket, and left in a morgue
drawer unattended for several hours. Though the nefarious doctor
mumbles some nonsense about why such a procedure might free up Jack’s
memories, and Becker’s antagonistic colleague, Dr. Lorenson
(Leigh) questions his methods, it is terribly unclear
why anyone could possibly think such an experience could help a
mentally unbalanced patient. What is even more poorly explained,
however, are the reasons for what actually does occur in the drawer:
Jack is transported some 15 years into the future, where he meets
Jackie (Knightley), the older version of the young
girl whose truck he fixed at the beginning of the film.
In 2007, Jack learns of the future consequences of any number
of events in his own 1993 universe. Various shady dealings are taking
place at the mental hospital, and the lives of Jackie and her mother
are heading down the wrong path. As he races back and forth in time
to try to right various wrongs, The Jacket begins to resemble
a needlessly convoluted episode of “Quantum Leap,” with
Brody as Sam to Knightley’s Al.
As unappetizing as that characterization may sound, the film would
be lucky to merit it: One would gladly exchange “Quantum Leap’s”
gee-whiz moralism for the stale impenetrability of The Jacket.
It is impossible not to drown in the sheer inanity and confusion
of this film. The Jacket is insipid as a love story, impenetrable
as a sci-fi time-travel adventure, and completely implausible as
a muckraking exposé on the treatment of the mentally ill.
The Jacket tries to be all of those things at once, and
fails at each task so miserably and spectacularly that it is impossible
to recommend this movie to anyone.