Jack’s Back (1988) – Review

3 Stars

100 years to the date after the original Jack the Ripper slayings in England, a copycat killer is stalking the streets of Los Angeles. The identical twin brother of a medical student framed for the grisly murders, is in town to clear his family name and uncover the true identity of the serial killer. Jack’s Back is a sturdy psychological thriller with a spellbinding acting job from James Spader, who plays both twins and has the gifts to make each an individual character.

Writer/director Rowdy Herrington’s debut film is an atmospheric murder-mystery with elements of modern-day horror movies and the cerebral head-trip of Ken Russell’s work. Spader is Rick Wesford, an ex-con tough-guy gone straight but enraged that his brother, John has been killed and pinned as the maniacal predator. His dogged pursuit of the killer leads to entanglement with the local cops working the case, a feisty news-reporter, and his brother’s former flame, leading to a showdown with the actual murder. Spader plays the dual role of twin brothers john/Rick Wesford with an earnestness that is refreshing, and well above what the material calls for, it’s a better film because of him.

There is a dreamy quality to the picture that works in its favor, the smoky rooms and tightly framed camerawork suggest entrapment in this nightmarish vision of Los Angeles after-dark. The plot developments are alternately captivating and preposterous, but ultimately the final act proves compelling enough to garner a positive recommendation.

Director: Rowdy Herrington
Stars: James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie

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