Sunday, October 19, 2008

#47: Jack's Back (Rowdy Herrington, 1988)

Jack's Back, the first film by Road House writer/director Rowdy Herrington, is a satisfyingly cheesy 1980s-style suspense thriller, with horror and police procedural elements. The plot relies on about seven or eight twists, so I'll try not to give anything away. (If you want to see it, this film is only available on VHS. I had to order a cheap copy from Amazon since none of my neighborhood video stores carried it.) The movie opens with a woman running away from an unseen attacker before he catches up with her and kills her. Then, two police detectives discuss the murder with a psychologist. A copycat killer is reenacting Jack the Ripper's murders exactly 100 years to the day after they originally occurred in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and this murder was a part of it. Pseudo-Jack has one murder left to commit, and it will happen ... TONIGHT! Next, we are introduced to James Spader, playing a double role as twin brothers. One brother is an idealistic medical student, working in a free clinic for poor people with no health insurance and volunteering his time at a homeless camp. Fellow medical student Cynthia Gibb has a crush on him, while the doctor who runs the clinic, Rod Loomis, is an ill-tempered whack job. The other twin is a slightly pompadoured bad boy who drinks, smokes, and gets into a lot of minor trouble with the law. He also manages a shoe store. Yes, that's right, a shoe store. The bad-boy character manages a shoe store. Saucony paid for product placement, so what can you do? Without giving anything away, the goody-two-shoes twin gets accused of the Ripper slayings, and the bad boy twin must clear his brother's name. Additionally, there are at least five possible suspects capable of committing the murders, including the good twin, the bad twin, the lunatic doctor, an orderly named Jack, and the psychologist.
Herrington's film gets two interesting performances from Spader, including a lot of angsty shirtless contemplations that my wife, the lovely Spacebeer, enjoyed very much. Most of the other performances are interesting as well. I also enjoyed the location shooting, the fact that most of the characters smoked in places where people can't smoke anymore (including the shoe store), the dated synth score, and the amusing plot twists. The film's climax is admirably light on dialogue, avoiding unnecessary exposition.

I don't have much to say about this movie. It's enjoyably cheesy without ever getting too cheesy, surprisingly suspenseful, and fun. I had a good time watching it, but I don't have any personal anecdotes or analyses this time. I was entertained, that's all. Also, it's very difficult to find images from films that aren't available on DVD. Goodbye, everyone.

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