Release Date:  March 4, 2005
Rating:  R (for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity)
Genre:  Thriller
Run Time:  102 min.
Director:  John Maybury
Actors:  Adrien Brody, Kiera Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Daniel Craig, Mackenzie Phillips
I’m starting to feel sorry for Adrian Brody.  Here he is, the youngest guy ever to get the Oscar for Best Actor (at 29) and a really fabulous actor, but he can’t get a decent role. Since winning the Oscar for “The Piano” in 2002, he’s filmed just two movies.  In “The Village,” he’s a mentally-challenged murderer, and in this one, he’s a mentally-challenged soldier.  And even though the guy can act circles around Keanu Reeves, he doesn’t quite look like Keanu Reeves.  So, while Keanu is playing the hero, poor Adrian is playing the fool. 

At least he does what he can with every role he plays, including this one. It’s the rest of the film that doesn’t work.

During the first Gulf War, Jack Starks took a bullet to the head from a gun-toting Iraqi kid.  He’s given a Bronze Star and sent home, but has a strange form of amnesia.  Walking along a snowy road in Vermont one day, he accepts a ride then ends up wounded and framed for the murder of a police officer.  Sent to a hospital for the criminally insane, Starks is treated by Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who has a Dr. Mengele-style habit of putting patients into straightjackets, pumping them full of drugs then stashing them into a morgue drawer. 

To his befuddled horror, Starks suffers that fate, again and again.  But soon, he realizes that he is traveling through time, 15 years into the future.  Every time he is put into the drawer, he goes to the same place, in the year 2007, and runs into an old acquaintance named Jackie Pride (Keira Knightley).  Jack met Jackie years ago on that Vermont road, when she was just a little girl.  He helped her stoned mother (Kelly Lynch) start her car, just prior to the murder that sent him to the mental institution. 

Jackie is all grown up now and works as a waitress, but she’s a miserable, chain-smoking alcoholic.  She accepts Jack’s explanation, with some reluctance, and soon begins helping him work the angles as he travels back and forth in time.  In particular, Jack learns from Jackie that he will soon die in that hospital, from a wound to the head.  So together, they try and stop his death.

While I’m sure it will find a few fans, “The Jacket” is simply not going to appeal to a huge audience.  The premise of the story is bizarre, in a Stanley Kubrick sort of way, but we’re never given enough information to buy into it.  For example, the way Jack is framed is totally implausible, because although a cop did die, Jack is also wounded – from behind.  And didn’t the CSI people notice the tire tracks of the guy who sped away? 

Also, no explanation is ever given for Dr. Becker’s cruel methods, so we’re left wondering not only what he is doing, but why he believes in it – and why his colleagues all follow him so blindly and never turn him into the authorities, despite their misgivings.  The film’s jerky jump-shot editing and loud flashbacks are supposed to be edgy, taking us into Jack’s head, but instead have us cringing in disbelief.  Strangely reminiscent of last year’s “The Butterfly Effect,” with Ashton Kutcher, it’s just plain bad directing, even with its “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “A Clockwork Orange” agenda.