The Jacket looks like a million bucks but only has about 50 cents worth of story in its pockets.
It'll keep you hooked for a while -- that is Oscar-winning Adrien Brody in almost every scene, after all, and he is quite remarkable -- but its Twilight Zone plot is just too thin to really make The Jacket work.
It isn't a bad night out for the young horror fans who make up its target audience, though it's no Saw, that's for sure.
Brody plays Jack Starks, a Desert Storm vet who suffered a head injury in the war, died and came to life again. It's 1991 and after an unfortunate event on a snowy Vermont highway, he's framed for murder and stuck in a gothic mental hospital where the lights are kept low and the walls drip with the desperation of those inside.
And how's this for therapy? A gravely voiced, unkempt psychiatrist (Kris Kristofferson) and his sallow-faced aides drug Jack, bind him in a straitjacket and stuff him horizontally into a tiny dark locker.
They close the door and leave.
The first time that happens, it's terrifying -- dark, cramped, no air to breathe. But something mysterious and fantastical happens to Jack in this locker, something the previews have given away but I won't. The trouble is, the transformation takes place too quickly, and The Jacket doesn't really bother to explain how it happens; it seems like something made up on the spot, a "hey, wouldn't it be cool?" moment.
It's hard to really buy into the movie after that, though it's stylish and moody enough to keep you entertained nonetheless.
Director John Maybury works hard to create a gloomy atmosphere, with hallucinatory flashes of quick-cut flashbacks and scary images popping up with ear-shattering sound effects.
Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean) helps, too, playing a troubled young woman who enters Starks' life. Almost unrecognizable, with goth makeup and tangled dark hair, she puts on an excellent American accent and cooks up some credible chemistry with the believably puzzled and distraught Brody. She has more going for her, it's clear, than all that beauty.
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2 1/2 stars out of 4
Who's it for? It's an OK night out for young thriller fans.
Credits: Starring Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley and Kris Kristofferson.
Directed by John Maybury.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Family guide: R. Violence, profanity, sexual situations, brief nudity.