Time-travel plot has a feeling of deja vu

Staff WriterMarch 4, 2005 

Adrien Brody is a Gulf War vet framed for murder, locked in an asylum and visiting the future.

During the making of "The Jacket," somebody at some point had to have told director John Maybury, Y'know, this is a lot like "12 Monkeys."

Come on, somebody had to have said it. This film, which has Oscar-winner Adrien Brody land in a mental institution and travel into the future, shares a lot with Terry Gilliam's 1995 post-apocalyptic fantasy, which has Bruce Willis travel back to the past and land in a mental institution.

The truth is, "The Jacket" may remind you of many movies, from Sam Fuller's 1963 B-movie "Shock Corridor" to last year's dreadful Ashton Kutcher vehicle "The Butterfly Effect." It also might remind you of "La Jetee," the 1962 French short that was remade as "12 Monkeys." It's like a cinematic pop quiz: During every scene, there should be a message that pops up on the screen saying, "Now which movie does this scene remind you of?"

Brody is Jack Starks, a Gulf War vet who narrowly escaped death -- he took a cap to the head -- only to return home and get framed for killing a cop while hitchhiking in Vermont. He's sentenced to an insane asylum, where a rogue doctor (Kris Kristofferson) goes about "rehabilitating" him by injecting him full of drugs, strapping him in a straitjacket and leaving him in a morgue drawer.

Through the magic of movies, once he's in the drawer, Starks gets transported into the future. He meets up with Jackie (Keira Knightley, complete with a boozy, American accent), the cynical, adult version of the sweet, young girl he met while hitchhiking back in 1992. She eventually informs our protagonist of two things: The year is 2007, and he's supposed to be dead. Of course, this sends him into investigation mode, finding out more about his death in the future so he can go back to the past and prevent it -- while freaking out a whole lot of people in the process.

It's unfortunate that "The Jacket" is such a Frankenstein monster of a movie, especially since the cast, which also includes Jennifer Jason Leigh as a caring doctor and Daniel Craig as a motor-mouthed inmate, acts as though they are in something original. Just like the article of clothing this movie is centered on, "The Jacket" may be snug and familiar, but it's still something you've slipped into too many times.

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760 or clindsey@newsobserver.com.

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