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Jack's Back
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by Jack Sommersby

"A First-Rate, Inventive Serial-Killer Thriller"
5 stars

Atmospheric and clever stuff.

One hundred years after the original Jack the Ripper murders, a copycat serial killer is leaving behind a slew of mutilated corpses throughout the Los Angeles area, replicating the exact details of the crimes, right down to the victims' types, incisions, and body placement. When the latest victim turns out to be a recent patient of a free clinic, two of the medical-school employees (played by James Spader and Cynthia Gibb) are soon put in mortal danger. While it's possessive of a few logical loopholes and behavorial inconsistencies, Jack's Back is suitably taut and breathlessly paced, with a proper respect for violence and a repulsed view of innate evil. Nothing in it is sensationalized to give the audience an easy way out in getting a kick out of the violence; it's a fairly unpleasant thriller that stays focused and allows the viewer little leeway to get their bearings -- it's in its mastery of keeping you off-balance that the film manages to glide over its contextual inconsistencies and keep the whodunit aspect niftily deceptive. Debuting writer/director Rowdy Harrington displays a great camera eye and a wonderful feel for Gothic atmospherics; with Shelly Johnson's evocatively textured lighting lending a strong assist, Herrington gives us a City of Angels shrouded with the kind of doom-laden visual schema that clings and unnerves like a mildew-covered vise. Aside from the crack suspense moments (when Harrington wants you to jump, you will), the action sequences are well-choreographed and the occasional loopy humor cannily integrated into this impressively engineered whole. Gibb is both beautiful and appealing, with Spader giving a seductive, commanding performance in a dual role that emits serious star wattage. The film lacks the interesting sociological undercurrents of the well-regarded From Hell, yet its limited scope frees it of the bulky exposition that weighed that ambitious film down. Excepting Michael Mann's remarkable Manhunter of 1986, this was the best serial-killer thriller of the decade.

Well worth rediscovery.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4187&reviewer=327
originally posted: 06/03/04 09:55:48
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User Comments

4/13/07 AJ Muller Excellent twists and cracking suspense; Spader is top notch. A lot of fun. 4 stars
3/06/03 Charles Tatum A big surprise from a small film 4 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby A first-rate, imaginative serial-killer thriller. 4 stars
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  06-May-1988 (R)



Directed by
  Rowdy Herrington

Written by
  Rowdy Herrington

  James Spader
  Cynthia Gibb
  Jim Haynie
  Robert Picardo
  Rod Loomis
  Rex Ryon

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