Jacknife | Chicago Reader

Jacknife

Robert De Niro, Ed Harris, and Kathy Baker star in a feature about two Vietnam veterans struggling to overcome their traumatic war experiences in the present—one (Harris) an all but broken man living with his schoolteacher sister (Baker), the other (De Niro) on the mend and gradually becoming involved with the schoolteacher. The film treats this theme sincerely, but unfortunately the script (by Stephen Metcalfe, based on his play Strange Snow) and direction (by David Jones) seem at times even more stunted than the heroes. If De Niro and Harris's characters suffer from being partially stuck in the 60s, the movie often reaches all the way back to the cliches of the 40s and 50s to try to understand them, telegraphing most of its “subtle” touches with a heavy hand, including soupy, nudging music by Bruce Broughton. Still, the three leads are so good that it's possible to overlook the material that they have to work with; Baker is especially touching and effective.

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