'The Jacket' is an awkward fit

This horror film requires a few stitches to mend its plotline.

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

'The Jacket" may surprise moviegoers who remember John Maybury's previous picture, "Love Is the Devil," a biopic about Francis Bacon, the controversial painter.

While that 1998 film had dramatic thrills and spills, it was an "art movie." By contrast, "The Jacket" is a more commercial project, with a big-name cast and a plot that blends intrigue with timely references to the Persian Gulf War.

Just as Maybury delved into the darker sides of Bacon's life and artistry, crafting images as grim and delirious as Bacon's own, he fills "The Jacket" with harsh visions.

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The result is what you might call a mass-audience art film. It doesn't entirely succeed, but it's certainly a change from today's standard mysteries and horror movies.

Adrien Brody plays Jack, a soldier who has amnesia after a war injury. Adrift in society after his release from medical care, he stumbles into a violent situation that results in a murder charge against him. This lands him in a hospital for the criminally insane, where he's treated by a psychiatrist whose theories may be eccentric - or deadly.

Without giving away the movie's main secrets, it's safe to reveal that the "therapy" inflicted on Jack involves many hours spent in a sealed box where he's supposed to "act out" his disturbances while isolated from other people he might harm. To his amazement, his stretches there turn into a series of enigmatic time-traveling experiences where he visits future events as well as his own traumas of the past.

Other characters include the psychiatrist's skeptical associate, a benevolent woman Jack meets in the future, and a mentally troubled child he may be able to help while solving the conundrums of his own life.

Maybury puts more priority on camera work and editing than on coaching first-rate performances, so the acting by Mr. Brody as the hero, Kris Kristofferson as the psychiatrist, Jennifer Jason Leigh as the other doctor, and Keira Knightley as his future friend is not very vivid. The plot doesn't always hang together as it should, either.

This said, "The Jacket" deserves good marks for ambition despite its flaws.

Rated R; contains violence and vulgarity.

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