That `80's Guy Who Misses Video Stores
Movie #20: Jack's Back (1988)
Who was Jack the Ripper? I have seen a TV special where researchers went through the records and seriously did their homework. They may have confirmed who he was, how he got away with the murders, and what happened to him. It remains officially unproven but is very plausible. There might be a handful of movies about the legendary serial killer, but "Jacks' Back" is very different. It is set in the 1980's and concerns a copycat killer recreating the Jack-the-Ripper crimes a century later.
The film has a tricky and delicate plot. James Spader plays twin brothers. One is a doctor implicated in the murder investigation. The other is the "bad boy" of the two and launches his own investigation to prove that his brother is not responsible. There is a lot I cannot say and will not give away here. What can be said is that the plot also happens to be extremely clumsy in execution. It is less about recreating Jack the Ripper's crimes and playing off his mythology, and more about a loosely-connected wild goose chase in modern times. Too bad. Centering on the mystery of a copycat killer on the the one-hundredth anniversary sounded interesting.
For James Spader, this must have been a change of pace after playing an overgrown teenager in "Pretty in Pink" and making ass of himself in "Mannequin" (although I do happen to love that movie). He bravely takes on the dark and contrived material, and tries to carry it on his shoulders. To its benefit, there is a sense of urgency and intensity in its suspense. It also has a strong `80's vibe, so how can this soul from that beloved time period not enjoy it? Alas, I just didn't. It starts off promisingly but falls apart.
** out of 4
Recommended as a rental at best
If you do want to see it for yourself, you can get it on DVD through - www.vhsps.com