A hidden gem of a movie that is thankfully getting some kind of a release on DVD.
This is the kind of movie that screams for Special Features and there are none!
Jacknife sees Robert DeNiro as Vietnam war veteran Joseph "Megs" Megessey in a performance we sadly don't see from him anymore. The film centers on a visit he pays to his pal David Flannigan (Ed Harris) and his sister Martha (Kathy Baker). It is apparent that David has many issues that are unresolved from the war, and Megs is just the person he needs in his life to start living again. Amidst all this, a romance begins brewing between Megs and Martha, but what makes Jacknife such an interesting viewing experience is that it never plays how too many indy films would play it today.
As we watch this movie, even when we first see these characters, we might think we know them because Megs, David and Martha look like types. However, it doesn't take long to realize that nothing that should happen in Jacknife really does, and once we get passed our preconceived notions as viewers, we are treated to the kind of film that simply shows us terrific performances by actors who are working at the height of their craft.
No Extras came with this DVD.
Full Screen - 1.33:1. At first when I started up this DVD on my player I thought I had done something wrong. Then I checked the box and I realized that that is the only option available in screening this movie. At first I thought that this might bother me, but the picture looked really clear and on top of that I was brought back to when I first rented this movie as a young boy. The film was in full screen and truthfully, I didn't make it past the first 10 minutes before shutting it off. It was really nice to get to relive that memory of trying to watch this film, only to realize how good a movie this film really is.
Dolby Digital. Close Captioned. As this film is a performance vehicle for all of these actors, top notch audio is a must. Well, I can say emphatically that the audio on this DVD is quite good. I loved the somber music, the way the actors delivered their lines, but more to the point, I loved the ambiance created by this soundtrack. It never got in the way, the music never told me what to feel, but it's presence was always felt.
Using a green sky to mesh with an image of Robert DeNiro that was used on this film's original one sheet, I am sure there are going to be people who have never heard of this movie and think that it went straight to video. There's also a shot of soldiers in Vietnam but that's played down as this really isn't a war movie, per se. The back shows us images of the cast (one of which features a touching picture of DeNiro at the Vietnam War memorial), a description of this movie, a cast list and technical specs.
If one wants to give themselves a really interesting treat, I would suggest screening The Deer Hunter and then Jacknife. While there is a lot of differences between the characters of Megs and Michael (the role DeNiro has in the latter film), they are similar in the fact that they are leaders. They are people who understand that not every situation is going to be pleasant, and they do everything in their power to meet those moments head on and get passed them. There is a richness to both performances that DeNiro carries with him just by presenting himself on screen. In fact, this is something that both Kathy Baker and Ed Harris have and that's probably what makes this movie work so well.
While it is certainly not the kind of movie that someone from the ADD Generation will enjoy, for those who love cinema and appreciate the richness of a great performance, Jacknife will give you all you need and more.
Jacknife was released March 10, 1989.