Jacknife (1989)

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Released 21-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 98:19 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Jones
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Robert De Niro
Ed Harris
Kathy Baker
Case C-Button-Version 2-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music Bruce Broughton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    It took 15 years or so before the US started waking up to the injustice meted out to its Vietnam veterans upon their return home from Asia. As always, reflecting the collective consciousness, a spate of  films were released in the 80's, highlighting the traumas suffered by the vets and their difficulty acclimatising to a largely pacifist society. Obviously sympathetic to the cause, Jacknife  was Robert de Niro's second film on Vietnam, following the Deerhunter (1978) -  he had also participated in a TV special - Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam the year before.

    Based on the Broadway play Strange Snow by Stephen Metcalfe, Jacknife presents de Niro as Vietnam vet Joseph 'Megs' Megassy. Having crossed paths with ex comrade-in-arms Davey (Ed Harris) some 6 weeks before, Megs drives 1200 miles to arrive at Davey's house very early one morning to take a fishing trip at the start of the season. Davey is deep in a  post-carousal coma, so his sister Martha (Kathy Baker) bears the brunt of Meg's loud-mouthed boorishness and sensibly decides to lay into him with a golf club. After a brief period of foreplay with Megs, Martha resuscitates Davey using a combination of cold water and applied worm therapy bringing him back to a semblance of consciousness. Discarding her proper school ma'am exterior she surprises the boys by sinking a 'cold one' for breakfast and joining them on the fishing trip!

    There's not too much of a storyline to Jacknife (so named because of his predilection for writing off trucks). An awkward romance blooms between the plain, stuffy Martha and the hypermanic, glass-punching, truck mechanic 'Megs'. Davey is not too impressed at his ex-comrade's attempts at courtship with his sister, and is not too busy, fighting his own demons and consuming large quantities of beer, to express his disapproval. The renewed acquaintance of the two veterans releases untamed demons of guilt at the loss of a mutual buddy in a Viet Cong ambush. All in all, it's a love story and a reflection of the healing of damaged people and relationships played between three fine actors - there's not much to write home about the suburban location of downtown Cromwell, Connecticut but there is some nice river scenery from Canada during the fishing trip. If the interpersonal play of three people caught in a variation of the eternal triangle is your thing, or you've experienced the pain of a war veteran - then I think you'll appreciate this movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is typical of the genre of notable films that deserve transfer onto DVD yet lack the likely sales to justify an expensive presentation.

    The transfer is presented in 1.85:1 ratio and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer shows a quite acceptable degree of resolution but low level detail is a little lacking in the frequent dark interior shots. Low level noise is largely absent.

    The colours were muted in keeping with the fairly sombre nature of the film and the grey weather of the northern US and Canada. They were well portrayed, however, and I thought the skin tones were very well rendered. I didn't pick up any chroma noise.

    There was mild pixelization throughout the background scenes of the film in keeping with the limited capacity of a DVD-5. There was mild aliasing on the roof lines but this wasn't intrusive. The film was taken from very clean stock with only an occasional scratch to see and very little dust or dirt artefacts.

    There were no subtitles.

    The disc is a single sided, single layered DVD-5 and thus has no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound track is adequate for a largely dialogue-dependent movie.

    There is a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio stream.

    Dialogue was somewhat muffled and I think this most likely a feature of the film recording rather than the transfer, Megs' lines in particular are delivered fast, often looking away from the camera and through a beard that would do justice to Gimli! I missed quite a few of the lines despite repeated audition which is a pity as some of the verbal duelling between Martha and Megs sounded quite witty.

    I didn't spot any audio synch discrepancies.

    The music was scored by Bruce Broughton and quite honestly was a bit of a dirge relying on trumpet solos backed by low key percussion. The analogue origins of the soundtrack were not kind to the sustained trumpet notes with quite painful wow and flutter evident. The music did the job though in an uninspiring sort of way and sounded typical of a million TV soaps.

    There was no encoding of surrounds or subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    In keeping with this low budget production, the only featured 'extra' was a three part menu with nine scene access.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 version of this movie is currently not available but based on sales info the only difference I could determine between the R1 and this release was NTSC video (of course!) and closed captioning, not present on the R4 version.

Summary

    I found this a little tedious and at times an awkward movie to watch. Three 'A class' actors in a 'B class' movie just about sums up my feelings for this feature, despite the importance of the subject matter and the powerful performance of the three leads.

    The video transfer was quite passable for a presentation of this type.

    The audio was barely up to the job and dialogue in particular was at times hard to decipher.

    There were no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Monday, December 30, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDEAD 8000 Pro, using RGB output
DisplayNEC MP3. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
Audio DecoderNaim AV2. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

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