Jacknife (1989)

Director: David Hugh Jones
Starring:Robert De Niro, Kathy Baker, Ed Harris, Charles S Duton .USA/Canada. 1h 42m,
Based On:Strange Snow (1982) Stephen Metcalfe

Only a mere 11 years after starting in the iconic Deer Hunter (1978) Robert De Niro is back playing another Vietnam War Vet adjusting to be an upstanding member of society while dealing with a turbulent past but there’s a deeper romantic edge poetic drama which highlights how people can change and that real friendship lasts forever but remains a complex and beautiful thing.

David Hugh Jones creates some memorable characters in his fairly light hearted approach at tackling the fallout from the Vietnam war. De Niro co starts with Ed Harris, two vets who’ve both sunk into their own personal depressions after returning without a dear friend after their tragic tour, Joseph “Megs” Megessey (De Niro) has found a new crutch to get him back into the flow of things, the once mad cannon is still lively but with a regular job, people to talk to hes slowly coming to terms in his own unique energetic fashion, but a good soldier never leaves a man behind, so filled with a new sense of pride and duty he attempts to connect with long lost bud Dave (Harris) who lives with his school teaching sister while wallowing in guilt and working on his alcohol dependence.

Kicking off at the crack of dawn, Megs wakes and eagerly heads across town to Daves place, it’s the first day of the fishing season and they have to start early, waking brother and sister, he steps into their lives changing it forever. He’s disgusted to see Dave is in another boozy stupor but struggles on to the fishing expedition with the help of Martha. The film was shot in several picturesque shots in the north east USA up into Canada, really reflecting the bronze tones of late summer and autumn. This touch with wanting to catch a hunting season seemed caught up with remnants from Deer Hunter,

The rekindling of the friendship falters when Megs falls hard for Dave’s adorable sweet natured sister Martha (Baker) this then throws a huge wedge between the siblings and the best friends as everyone begins to assess where they are in life and what it means to be happy. Weirdly it deals with some serious lows, PTSD, loneliness and all the dynamics of negative thoughts in a touching way. Each person seems to have been coasting on fumes for so long but instead of expiring all they need to do is find that glow in one and other, to refill their tanks but everyone is reluctant apart from megs, his quirky energy seems to keep him going but as he gains his confidence it seems to leak out and sparks something in those around him.

No matter how hard you try. He will always be the best friend you ever had.

With the autumn setting and the peaceful world in which everyone meanders, Brain West’s incredible cinematography helps halt the world around the magnetic actors really adds some dept to their already blistering performances, especially Ed Harris as his character Dave comes to some big revelations, begins to see what he’s holding onto emotionally and how it’s breaking down his current friendships and relationship with his dear sister, all he really needs to do is talk but what he ends up doing is lashing out.

There could have been a much stronger soundtrack, late 80’s films were well now for kicking ass with some amazing tunage, but this doesn’t even have it’s one iconic song but it does make up for it with a strong story, superb acting and the rollercoaster of emotions.

De Niro is really infectious in this movie, compared with the more stoic Harris, it’s a classic example of different approaches in acting while De Niro is spreading himself thickly all over the place, losing himself in his character but he helps edge the movie along s the subject can be a bit heavy, he’s a vital component and a distraction, but his has the ilk to make it work. Harris tends to be the one to hold a lot in and explodes from time to time as his character bolsters the film for its entirety but De Niro steals the show.

Rating: 8/10

R: Deer Hunter (1978), Stanley and Iris (1990), Born on the 4th of July (1989)
L: Vietnam War Movies, Returning from the War, Best Friends for Life, 80 for the 1980’s, Film from 1989 still worth talking about
5s: Robert De Niro, Ed Harris

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