FANTASTIC FEST 2023 REVIEW! Jackdaw is a singularly entertaining action flick bolstered by inventive sequences, solid performances, and evocative attention to detail. Writer-director Jamie Childs does quite a bit to deliver on the expected tropes of his chosen genre, and despite a few pitfalls, wound up with a movie that’s certainly worth watching. The filmmaker presents a narrative that doesn’t do much to explain itself outright, which is amusing.
Jack (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is an ex-military, former motocross champion who finds himself stealing in an effort to make a little extra cash. Tasked with retrieving a mysterious package for Silas (Joe Blakemore), an unhinged old friend, Jack realizes that whatever he was asked to steal is much more valuable than anyone had thought. Soon, Silas kidnaps Jack’s brother, Simon (Leon Harrop), as retribution for leaving the package undelivered. So Jack journeys to a rave where he runs into an old flame, Bo (Jenna Coleman), and a man named Craig (Thomas Turgoose), who offers to help him rescue his brother.
This happens so quickly that any narrative drama within those decisions is never really earned. Being allergic to exposition isn’t a crime in filmmaking. Still, our story spends so much time moving between sequences that the emotional weight Childs and company attempt to portray falls decidedly flat. Jackdaw never stops long enough to allow our cast of characters time to endear themselves to us or define their motivations. This quickly becomes the movie’s greatest weakness, even if that lack of explanation keeps things intriguing.
“…Silas kidnaps Jack’s brother, Simon, as retribution…”
Where this action thriller really sings is in imagery. Will Baldy’s stellar cinematography communicates a genuine love for color and light that doesn’t stop until the credits start rolling. What we’re given visually is as thought-provoking as the picture’s most cerebral moments and a true joy to watch. There’s a feeling cultivated in those images, a “vibe,” which definitely lifts this feature well above its class.
Still, a story can’t ever exist on vibes alone, and sadly, Jackdaw finds that out the hard way. Most of the character development is done in the last half-hour, and by then, it’s far too late to care. Full stop. Jack finds out that the package belongs to a criminal kingpin named Armstrong (Rory McCann), who happens to be closer to Jack and Simon than anyone is comfortable with. In truth, a lot of plot conveniences find their way into the third act, and by the time Jack and Armstrong have their showdown, everything falls apart. But does it even matter?
What gets us to that finish line is the undeniably bold, intentionally stark colors and cinematography. Plus, the eccentric performances from just about everyone are fantastic. If you don’t mind a motion picture that says much without saying much of anything, Jackdaw fits the bill.
Jackdaw screened at the 2023 Fantastic Fest.
"…undeniably bold, intentionally stark colors and cinematography."