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Title: Jack's Back

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:70

Jack the Ripper terrorized prostitutes all over the red light district of London for years. Hacking and slashing through the underbelly of the town in what is widely considered the world’s largest unsolved serial killing crime. In fact, there has been a million different theories on who the horrible killer is, and what his motives were. The biggest thing that most people can agree on is that he was most likely someone in the medical industry, as his murders were always combined with a surgical precision and knowledge of human anatomy that the average Londoner was not privy to. Fast forward a hundred years and it there is a serial killer on the loose who is replicating those original murders. This time the police has a suspect, but he happens to be the twin brother of someone who just might be the ACTUAL murderer.

As I said. Its 100 years after the original Jack the Ripper murders and the prostitutes of San Francisco are plagued with a copycat killer who’s replicating those murders down to the T, including matching the dates of the original ones. John Wesford (James Spader) is a young doctor who has a penchant for helping those who are in need. Even if that means ticking off the doctor he’s working for (played by Rod Loomis) as well as jeopardizing his career in pursuit of his humanitarian passion. Seeing a young prostitute in need, he visits her home one night only to see his coworker Jack (Rex Ryon) in the room next to a bloody corpse. Jack knows he didn’t do it, but runs out of the room in a panic with John hot on his heels. Cornered by the young physician, Jack screams his continued innocence and after John attempts a 911 call, strangles the poor guy and hangs him from a rope.

In a strange moment of faking the audience out, we see James Spader sit straight up in bed, awaking from the nightmare. The thing is, this isn’t John anymore. It’s his twin brother Rick, who’s a bit different than the humanitarian brother. Seeing his brother’s death in a dream the shaken man realizes that this may not have been a dream at all when he notices the police cars down the road and the ambulance carrying the dead body of his brother. Going to the police, he’s interrogated by psychologist Dr. Carlos Battera (Robert Picardo of “Star Trek” fame) who is shocked at the firsthand knowledge of the event that Rick is privy to. Realizing that there might be a subconscious link between the twin brothers, Dr. Battera hypnotizes Rick in an effort to pull more information from his mind. In this session Rick is able to finally see the face of the person who killed his brother and has to use every tool at his disposal to find the man who killed his brother.

“Jack’s Back” is an interesting film, with a rather strange plot structure. The first ¼ of the film dealing with the prostitutes getting murdered, and the tracking down of the killer. Only to be sideswiped with the obviously innocent Jack killing Rick’s brother, John, and leading the police on a wild goose chase for the killer. The cops think that Rick is the obvious choice, so with that in mind he’s got to find out who killed his brother before the cops can take him in and book him. On the other hand, the audience is completely aware that the real killer is still out there. Had that been addressed with more prostitute murders going on while Rick and Jack play cat and mouse with each other it would have been fine. However, the real killer is put on ice until the last 10 minutes of the film when Rick remembers something else about his nightmare, something that will point the finger at the prostitute murderer, as well as putting Jack behind bars for the murder of John.

James Spader is really the highlight of “Jack’s Back”. A wildly charismatic actor, James has managed to create memorable characters in movies that really don’t deserve it. Such is the same case for this movie. “Jack’s Back” is a moderately good thriller, but the double role of Rick and John by Spader make the movie wildly more entertaining. James gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as both John and Rick, giving distinctly different vibes for each character. John is rather elaborate with his hand movements as well as the excited way he walks and talks. Rick is much different, playing a more subdued character that talks with his eyes more than his lips. Those haunted and steely eyes convey more emotion and dialog than one would expect for a low budget thriller and the cigarette smoking Rick seems 10x more dangerous than his brother ever was. Cynthia Gibb as John’s associate at the clinic does a solid job, as does Robert Picardo as the doctor, with a rather pedestrian script. “Jack’s Back” shows the cracks in it’s armor (in this case the script), but the performances of Spader and Picardo add some life to the movie, making it a worthwhile movie to check out.


Rated R by the MPAA

Video :4stars:
The 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray for “Jack’s Back is largely very satisfactory, with one major flaw that stands out rather predominantly. The fine detail and overall clarity for the 1988 low budget thriller is rather nice, with clothing standing out as the most prominently detailed feature in the film. There’s some softness and a little bit of macroblocking during the movie, but nothing too egregious. Blacks are a bit light and a teensy bit washed out, obscuring some of the shadow detail, but still leaving enough to look quite nice. The one issue that I took with the film’s transfer was the contrast boosting. The white levels were boosted pretty high and it tended to give the amber colored film a sort of milky complexion as a result. Thus the washed out black levels that I mentioned. It’s not a horrible thing once your eyes get used to it, but it draw the score down just a little.

Audio :3.5stars:
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track for the film is simple, but solidly representative of the low budget mixing that went on with the creation of the movie. Dialog is crisp and clear as can be, with strong vocal support and a nice usage of the front speakers. The action is all centered up front and seems to show good panning effects and directionality when the action kicks off. However, much of the film is really dialog centric and that tends to be the focus of the mix. LFE is nice and solid, baked into the front two speakers and I never felt like I heard any major audio anomalies or anything that might be considered negative. The track does exactly what is asked of it, but just isn’t going to compare to a wildly immersive 5.1 mix, which is nothing against the track in any way shape or form.

Extras :2.5stars:

• Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington
• The Making Of JACK'S BACK - Interviews With Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington, Producer Tim Moore, Actress Cynthia Gibb And Director Of Photography Shelly Johnson
• Theatrical Trailer

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Jack’s Back” is an odd movie. One that seems to want to focus on a serial killer that replicates Jack the Ripper’s century old killings, but then goes on to focus on a completely unrelated murder of the main character’s brother. That is until the very end when a chance mystical observation causes Rick to identify the REAL killer in all of this. It’s odd and feels a bit like cheating, as the main focus of the movie has been shifted off to the side for so long and then thrown in to round out the plot. James Spader is still James Spader, and that’s the real reason for watching “Jack’s Back” more than anything. A decent rental that I never expected to hit Blu-ray and definitely worth watching if you’re either a fan of Spader, or good old 80’s thrillers. Rental for sure.

Additional Information:

Starring: James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie
Directed by: Rowdy Herrington
Written by: Rowdy Herrington
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: SCREAM Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 97 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 26th 2016

Buy Jack's Back On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

More about Mike

1,784 Posts
I saw this movie many years ago and loved it. I wonder if it will stand the test of time for me though ?

1,784 Posts
Understood, Thank You Mr. Edwards
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