Please note that these screencaps are from an alternate source and do not necessarily reflect the Blu-ray presentation.
***/**** Image B+ Sound B Extras B
starring James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie, Robert Picardo
written and directed by Rowdy Herrington
by Walter Chaw A quintessential dirty '80s thriller, Rowdy Herrington's frankly fantastic Jack's Back follows a Jack the Ripper copycat killer circa 1988 who, it appears, is interrupted during his last murder by earnest, likeable med student John (James Spader), who's quickly dispatched for his erudition. When I saw Jack's Back on VHS in '88, I was shocked by the brutality of John's murder and that it happens about fifteen minutes into the film. Rick (also Spader), John's twin, has a dream of his brother's murder and appears on the scene--to the consternation of John's grieving coworkers--to investigate the circumstances of his death. It's a fascinating conceit, or a silly one made fascinating by Herrington's execution of it and by a dual performance as subtle and compelling, in its way, as Jeremy Irons's turn in Cronenberg's Dead Ringers from the same year. Spader manages the neat trick of being two different people who aren't two easily-distinguishable types. You see the rebellion nascent in the "good" brother; you see the vulnerability in the "bad" one. Silly to say, maybe, but you see elements of one in the other. Spader's interactions with Cynthia Gibb, playing John's co-worker at a free clinic, are radically different from brother to brother, though not theatrically so. More than a thriller, Jack's Back is a brilliant character study.