The Jacket John Maybury

For all its claims at having avant-garde roots, The Jacket is shamelessly derivative; it's One Flew Over the Butterfly Effect with a peppering of Jacob's Ladder thrown in for flavour. Though some of the B-roll establishing shots and the title sequence bare the trappings of experimental cinema (valuing form over content), they rarely amount to anything more than slight aesthetic flourishes floundering in a sea of Hollywood conventions. Not that there's anything wrong with that but The Jacket is also quite boring. Adrien Brody (as Gulf War veteran Jack Starks) mopes from one unpleasant situation to the next in trying to get to the bottom of the story's various metaphysical puzzles. Is it a Gulf War death dream, an extended delusion or genuine time travel? Who cares? Director John Maybury's (Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon) considerable experience making experimental films in Britain is discussed in the DVD's two extra featurettes as if that experience necessarily informs his choices on this project. "The Look of The Jacket," for example, focuses on production designer Alan MacDonald's set decoration, which is built around grid patterns and installation art-style props. But for all its aspirations, the resulting look is hardly remarkable. The second featurette, "The Jacket: Project History and Deleted Scenes," integrates deleted scenes into its overall discussion of the film. It's an innovative use of deleted material, but that's as far as the innovation goes; the various talking heads (Maybury included) miss every opportunity to point out exactly where the avant-garde influenced the film they've made. Screenwriter Massy Tadjedin's explanation of how the story's setting was changed from post-Vietnam to post-Iraq is informative of the haphazardness of the writing. "It just made sense," apparently. What doesn't make sense, however, is the story's conclusion. After all the gore of the war scenes and demented insane asylum shenanigans, the story arrives at two conclusions: it's better to drive a Volkswagen than a GMC truck, and smoking cigarettes is a poor health choice. (Warner)