Wounded in 1991 during the first Gulf War, and then finding himself convicted of a murder he cannot remember committing a year later, Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) is sent to a prison hospital where he begins to slowly waste away. When an ambitious doctor (Kris Kristofferson) decides to use Jack as a guinea pig for his medical experiments, he shoots Jack up with toxins, straps him into a straightjacket, and locks him in a morgue drawer for hours at a time. In this confined space, Jack's mind begins to violently explore his memories, ultimately giving him the ability to travel forward to the year 2007, and attempt to change his present situation with his knowledge of the future, assisted by a young girl he once met in passing (Keira Knightley, "Pirates of the Caribbean").
When a film deals with time travel of the mind, it has carte blanche to go anywhere it pleases. Inherently a huge story cheat, this type of science fiction is risky to undertake, especially when not armed with a DeLorean. Last year saw the release of "The Butterfly Effect," a woefully misguided picture that didn't take full advantage of its odd premise. "The Jacket" (IMDb listing) covers the same territory as "Effect." But in place of Ashton Kutcher and a brain dysfunction, we have Adrien Brody on drugs, strapped into a urine-drenched straightjacket, and locked in a tiny, pitch-black morgue drawer. At least there's progress.
"The Jacket" is not a film for scrutiny. With healthy leaps in logic, character, and plot, the picture is best considered an experience of sight, sound, and performance. Director John Maybury ("Love Is the Devil") seems to agree, and while he burdens the film with needless over-editing in an attempt to drag (kicking and screaming at times) a playful, thrillerish mood out of the picture, he does manage to generate an atmosphere where the particulars of this zany film can be bought within the context of its world. It's an impressive feat, considering how derailed this film eventually becomes. "The Jacket" is passionate about its premise, which goes a long way toward creating a film of slight entertainment value. As long as you don't stop to think, which the movie seems to be asking that you do, it provides a decent enough tale of time travel, love, and revenge.
That is, if you can get over the performances. Recreating his weepy-eyed, plaintive acting from "The Pianist," Adrien Brody seems game to go wherever Maybury wants him to, but he never appears entirely convinced as to what he should be feeling. It's a scattershot performance, but he nails the morgue drawer scenes, which require appropriate hysteria and claustrophobic fidgeting. The real shock of "Jacket" is actress Keira Knightley, who bumbles the critical role of Jackie with her clownish method acting and odd American-accented line delivery. Nothing is worse than watching Knightley act drunk and angry (I think that's what it was), and her performance ruins a pivotal subplot in the film that romantically links up Jackie and Jack. Maybe in the sequel Jack can go back in time and pick a better co-star.
Filmfodder Grade: C