It was only months ago that the Last Action Heroes investigated whether rappers and humanitarians had any place in the action genre. The answer was a powerful “No.” However, one late night I found myself watching “Unfaithful” starring Richard Gere. The movie featured one Richard Gere kill and was more of an action movie for the mind. Emotions replaced bullets and the preservation of a marriage replaced such plots as Van Damme’s need to earn $100 to buy a boat ticket in “Hard Target.”
It was indeed intriguing, which brought us to 1997’s “The Jackal.” Much like last semester, when the Last Action Heroes duked it out over the legitimacy of Matt Damon in the “Bourne” series, today we will debate the action ability of Richard Gere in “Jackal.”
In the tradition of “Strike Force” and “Unfaithful,” Richard Gere once again brings to the action realm what Dolph Lundgren brings to Broadway: absolutely nothing. Chuck Norris has wracked up more kills in a single episode of “Walker: Texas Ranger” than Richard Gere has in his entire action career. While the poster and DVD cover of “The Jackal” look intimidating, they’re as truthful as the “Strike Force” DVD cover. In “Strike Force,” Gere appears for about five total minutes — that is no exaggeration. In “The Jackal,” Gere waits until just over two hours into the movie to carry out his first and only kill.
“Jackal” featured 10 overall kills and seven beat-downs, along with an emotional beat-down by Richard Gere to an old flame. Kills in “The Jackal” include a medieval axe being planted in a dude’s head and a gatling gun reducing Jack Black to a bloody pile of bone and flesh. The Jackal’s weapon of choice is a gigantic gatling gun using a modified Canon 600mm lens and joystick aiming. The lens has been modified to zoom and a closed circuit television signal allows the Jackal to control the gun wirelessly many feet away from where it is stationed.
Willis is legit as “The Jackal” in this surprisingly entertaining entry to the action genre. He clocks in seven of the film’s 10 kills, in addition to three hefty beat-downs. He intimidates and kills an incredibly annoying Jack Black using his ridiculous rifle all while rocking a Ditka-like mustache/hair combo. Interestingly, Willis has no problem smuggling his gigantic weapon around airport security by telling people it’s a fishing pole. I know security was a little more lenient before 9/11, but this was a bit hard to swallow.
Bruce was truly a man of mystery in the flick, donning countless disguises as he made his way from Russia to the U.S. Not only did he rock a solid merm (that’s man-perm for the unaware), but Willis changed his hair color more times than Dennis Rodman, too.
Bruce is the villain I loved to root for as he got into countless adventures like buying his $200,000 gun from a computer that sounded creepily like Steven Hawking and dropping a random security guard in the subway like he was hot. Snoop would be proud.
“The Jackal” successfully combines the drama and emotion of “Bridges of Madison County” with the typical high-budget ’90s action flick. We can’t really expect much killing and senseless beating of villains from a man who starred in such flicks as “First Knight,” “Pretty Woman,” “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “The Mothman Prophecies.” Hmm. Let’s see here. Gere starred in 1978’s “Bloodbrothers” with the tagline “Melodrama with a capital M.” Van Damme starred in 1988’s “Bloodsport” with the tagline “The secret contest where the world’s greatest warriors fight in a battle to the death.” Game. Set. Match. Van Damme.
I completely agree. Frankly, Gere was a frustrating action hero on multiple levels. If it wasn’t his lame Irish accent — which must’ve been inspired by the Lucky Charms Leprechaun — it was his keen ability to avoid almost all action unless he had no other choice. When The Jackal pulls a pistol and fires a few rounds in his direction, Gere dives into the nearby river and swims to safety. If Seagal had taken Gere’s place, he easily would’ve jogged over and proceeded to give him the beat-down of his life — all after asking The Jackal if he would call himself a “tough guy.”
Instead of stepping-up his game and earning his action stripes, Gere made Gandhi look like a hard-ass with all of the running and dodging he did in “The Jackal.” An LAH fan informed us that to see Gere in his action prime we should check out “First Knight,” but we can only give the man so many chances to prove himself. The only thing Gere dominates in the entire movie is the cafeteria peas he eats during one of his countless bland scenes.
While “The Jackal” fails to provide the action we hoped or did not hope for from Richard Gere, it did provide a moment that will go down in action movie history. Bruce Willis is largely considered a legitimate action hero. Movies like “The Fifth Element” and “The Sixth Sense,” along with voice-acting roles in each of the “Look Who’s Talking” movies, as well as “Rugrats Go Wild!” will forever keep Bruce Willis away from approaching the stature of such legends as Van Damme and Seagal.
However, even if Bruce Willis hadn’t lent his voice to the “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” movie, a scene roughly halfway through the movie in a gay bar where Willis kisses a man for two seconds, then whispers into his ear and returns for a second helping, will forever be a pox on his action credibility. Van Damme and Seagal never once kissed a man to get their jobs done. Willis kills the man later in the movie, but the kissing scene remains.
Somehow I knew you’d ignore all of Willis’ bad-assery and concentrate on the five-second scene of man-love. Yes, I can’t refute that he did indeed make out with a man in “The Jackal.” But, in all fairness, I see no reason this hurts his action resume. We’re talking about the man who originally coined “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker.”
Though he kisses a man fairly early in the film, this has nothing to do with the amount of havoc Willis wreaks on people for the remainder of “The Jackal.” He not only draws a little heart on the cheek of a dying woman using her own blood as finger-paint, but he shoots the same man he made out with earlier twice in the chest, giving him a beautiful pair of blood nipples before going back to eating his Chinese food.
While some may go homophobe on Willis and say his reputation is ruined (*cough* Derek *cough*), I for one like to keep an open mind when it comes to action. After all, Derek’s boy Van Damme was a mime in “The Quest.” Yes, a mime. And I don’t remember a small foresight like that ruining all of the action he found himself getting into.
Regardless, “The Jackal” confirmed Gere’s place will be forever outside the action genre. The only memorable part of the film is the scene where Willis kisses a man for five seconds, and it will be forever remembered when weighing him against comparable greats such as Wesley Snipes and Arnold Schwarzenegger. For these reasons I give “The Jackal” two LDPs.
Sexual orientation aside, Willis stole “The Jackal” all the way. It was another strong showing for him. It proved he’s able to be just as good of an action villain as action hero — a versatility few men can match. As for Gere, he might as well be dead to the LAH. He will forever be known as little more than the man who both danced with Jennifer Lopez and charmed a prostitute. I give “The Jackal” two Chuck Norrises and a bonus Jack Black.
The Last Action Heroes want to hear from you!!! Do you secretly love Richard Gere and his horrid Irish accent? Is there a burning action issue that needs to be brought to light?! Drop Derek and Ryan a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.