A review of “The Jacket” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for violence and disturbing images

Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

 

 

Psychological thrillers need to thrill in order to fulfill their promise.  The Jacket weighs in on a paltry premise similar to Ashton Kutcher’s The Butterfly Effect but ultimately pays off in tension and redemption.

Adrien Brody is Gulf War veteran Jack Starks who intones in ominous voice-over that he has died multiple times.  Having survived a combat gunshot wound to the head, Jack lands back in the states as a mild-mannered drifter.

His isn’t your average knockabout as Jack discovers when he’s found lying next to a murder victim with smoking gun in hand. Quick as you can say Altered States Jack is committed to the Alpine Grove Psychiatric Hospital for the criminally insane. 

The doc in charge is the Josef Mengele of Block H (Kris Kristofferson), a sadistic mind-bender who believes that heavy medication will adjust Jack’s violent proclivities. To that end the good doctor shoots Jack up with hallucinogens and shoves him into a morgue drawer for hours on end (ugh).

Once inside his metal coffin Jack melodramatically trips to his own drummer; cerebral journeys that afford him the unforeseen luxury of piecing together a number of psychic mysteries including his own death.  Quick cut flashes of tempestuous nightmares foretell of a crucial friendship of fate with down-on-her-luck waitress Jackie Price (Keira Knightley).

Gratuitous romance and abstract dialogue aside (“life begins with the knowledge of death”), Jacket stays true to its thriller roots by maintaining an aura of delusional disorder and catering to Brody’s cadaverous presence. Time spent in the aforementioned close quarters is frighteningly claustrophobic and uncomfortably reminiscent of The Vanishing or more recently Kill Bill 2 (gulp).       

Jennifer Jason Leigh as a sympathetic shrink and the delicious Daniel Craig as a schizophrenic inmate round out an impressive cast. Jacket floats like a butterfly but stings like a bee.