Robert De Niro’s tour de force turn as a feisty Vietnam vet fails to save Jacknife, a poorly scripted three-hander drama [from Stephen Metcalfe’s play Strange Snow].
De Niro is Megs (alternately nicknamed Jacknife by his war buddy Bobby, who was killed in action), a burnout working as a Connecticut car repairman. He decides to get another war buddy, Dave (Ed Harris), to break out of his shell by forcing him to have a good time and remember those blocked-out adventures the trio had in ‘Nam.
A romance eventually blossoms between Harris’ high school teacher sister (Kathy Baker) and De Niro (with Harris opposing the alliance), leading to a prom night where she is the chaperone with De Niro her date; Harris violently disrupts the event.
Besides its romance of ‘little people,’ film’s central treatment of the Vietnam hangover that hamstrings Harris’ return to normal living proves to be flat and uninvolving.
De Niro is spectacular, bringing life to every scene he’s in. Unfortunately, helmer David Jones, who had better luck with the Harold Pinter three-hander Betrayal, fails to generate much interest in the material.