Raindance Reviews: Two Jacks ★★

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Director Bernard Rose presents his fourth Leo Tolstoy adaptation after Anna Karenina (’97), Ivan Xtc (’00) and The Kreutzer Sonata (’08), this time basing his story on one of Tolstoy’s short stories ‘Two Hussars’.

It follows a once legendary film director called Jack Hussar (Danny Huston), who returns to Hollywood after a long absence, looking for financing for his new project. He’s broke and alone and winds up staying with a guy called Brad that he meets at the airport, who happens to be a megafan of his work. Brad takes him to a fancy party where he meets Brad’s sister Diana (Sienna Miller) and seduces her. He stays up all night, gets very drunk and then manages to win his film financing at a high stakes poker game. Twenty years later his son Jack Junoir (Jack Huston) returns and history repeats itself.

Danny Huston gives a charismatic lead performance as a director whose passed his peak, and Sienna Miller is as enchanting as ever, even if the role only consists of smiling and looking pretty. The problem with the film is that all the relationships are too superficial to care about. It’s entertaining throughout, but no one gets hurt/shot/robbed, or even heartbroken by either of the Jack’s doings. Debauchery goes as far as awkward sex in a parked car.

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Tolstoy’s story (written in 1856) is supposed to present two generations, the old and the new. The father likes to drink and act recklessly but is generally assumed to be a decent person, whereas his son is sleazy, argumentative and morally bankrupt. What emerges is nostalgia for old Hollywood, (possibly where studios took more risks in giving money to creative types – such as Bernard Rose). Made with a shoestring budget, 2 Jacks could’ve done with a proper cameraman taking over from Rose to stop everything going out of focus all the time. That, or some fake guns and blood would’ve helped.

Two Jacks had its world premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival and will be on general release in the U.S on October 18th.

Flossie Topping is the former Editor-in-Chief of Critics Associated (2013-2015).