Throughout the 1990s, Dr Jack Kevorkian’s (Al Pacino) mission in life was to bring peace to those who needed it most. After seeing his mother die a slow, drawn out death, and after hearing endless stories of what she and his father had bore witness to during the Armenian genocide, Jack decided that those who faced death without dignity should have the right to euthanasia. He would interview candidates to determine their suitability and have these taped by his sister, Margot (Ronda Vaccaro). When he finds his first candidate, Jack turns to the Hemlock Society president (Susan Sarandon) for help. Between the three of them and their lawyer, they keep a pretty tidy operation and for years, Jack manages to evade the law via loophole after loophole. However, eventually he goes a step that the law deems too far and it’s a fight he cannot win. Was it heroism or hubris that was Jack’s downfall?
You Don’t Know Jack is the 2010 HBO-produced TV movie that tells the story of Dr Death himself, Jack Kevorkian. It is a fairly in-depth look at what the man did and also the reactions he got across America for his work. I, for one, rather enjoyed the film – it was darkly funny, had Al in it and centred around a very volatile subject I think just about everyone has an opinion on, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it would something for everyone…
Pacino is on top form in a role I doubt too many people would associate him with considering he rose to fame as infamous gangster Michael Corleone, and stayed at the top for a long time with roles in similar genres. The best way i can describe him as Jack is that you should just probably just imagine Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler in retirement. Jack was an odd-ball with few friends and a real obsession. I don’t know if i should have done, but there were many times when i had a good old giggle to myself at some of the things he did. In a way, it’s a good job he only dealt with the dying the man’s social skills were awful. Nonetheless, Pacino was terrific – his mannerisms truly fitted the character of Jack and there was still a scene where one of those rants crept in.
You Don’t Know Jack also sees a reunion between Pacino and his Sea Of Love co-star John Goodman who plays Neal Nicol, Jack’s longtime friend who gets him all the supplies he needs. I really liked the pairing in the 1989 film and so I looked forward to seeing them both again here, as I knew despite some of the fairly heavy subject matter, there could very well have been some hilarious exchanges between Goodman and Pacino. I wasn’t wrong, and actually nearly cried at one point near the start when Neal paid Jack a visit to congratulate him on making the cover of a magazine and Jack suggested they both had a glass of water to celebrate. That alone was funny for me, but Goodman’s facial expressions at that point set the standard for the rest of the film and I loved it.
Now. Whilst I found the film to be very comical in places, we mustn’t forget that the real point of the film is to ask audiences whether or not assisted suicide should be legalised. It is a sensitive subject, and the film is based on real events which or course means that the people who go to see Jack in the film represent real people who went to see Jack in real life. It is this reason why I think the film may not quite be for everyone.
I found You Don’t Know Jack to be a decent film that perhaps was worthy of a cinema release but unfortunately didn’t quite make it. It makes bit of a statement that certainly made me think a little bit about the way things are, and whether it would be better or worse if they changed, and revolves around an issue that so many people have views on for so many reasons. I highly recommend you see it if you can, but it covers a serious moral issue, and I think it’s your stance on this issue that could make or break the film for you.