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The Jacket restrains its indie sensibilities, to viewers’ dismay

“The Jacket”

Warner Independent Pictures

Directed by John Maybury

Written by Marc Rosso and Massy Tadjedin

Starring Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson and Jennifer Jason Leigh

Opened March 4, 2005

Rated R/102 minutes

Two and a half out of four stars

At one time, the Sundance Film Festival showcased brave experimental pieces-self-financed movies shot on rented cameras representing independent sensibilities. These endeavors took years, and their culmination, proudly displayed at Sundance each year, marked an incredible feat.

Now, as independent anything waxes cool nonconformity, well-funded mainstream films, flimsily guised in trendy Indie garb, strong-arm and ultimately overtake the genuine guerilla masterpieces. Worst of all, they use Sundance as their helipad.

Director John Maybury’s “The Jacket” exemplifies this sad retrogression. Produced by such bigwigs as Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney-and touting a spectacular mega-cast-“The Jacket” clearly never struggled for funding. It really doesn’t matter. Like most films to come out this month, “The Jacket” delivers a reasonably entertaining-though generally unremarkable-March holdover

We meet Jack Starks (played by a wonderfully understated Adrien Brody) as he tries to help a little boy in Desert Storm. The boy whips out a pistol, and shoots Starks in the face. He dies, is quickly resuscitated, and the next time we see him, he’s a hitchhiking amnesiac, meandering through Vermont.

Starks accepts a ride from a shady, intoxicated gen-Xer who, when a cop pulls them over for a routine check, shoots the cop, cleans off the gun, and plants it on Starks.

Of course, Starks is convicted of the cop’s murder. The judge places him in an asylum, wherein a well-meaning doctor (Kris Kristofferson) pumps him full of experimental drugs, straps him into five-point restraints and shoves him into a morgue drawer.

In the drawer, Starks has lucid visions of his future, all involving the grown-up, very dysfunctional version of a little girl-Jackie (played by Keira Knightley)-he helped some years before. He soon foresees his own death, and, with Jackie’s aid and his prescient power, spends the rest of the movie trying to prevent it.

Every actor comfortably dons his or her persona. Brody’s contemplative, taciturn Starks contrasts nicely with Knightley’s acerbic, cynical Jackie. Kristofferson, who emanates grizzled compassion (if that’s possible) for Starks, even though he regularly torments him, seems as appropriately out of place here as he does in every other movie. This is a good thing.

Though the editing and visual effects are stellar, “The Jacket” lacks in screenwriting, most grievously, telling when it should be showing. Omniscient, moralistic narration belongs elsewhere-and it frankly detracts from otherwise good storytelling.

“The Jacket” is decent, though really nothing special. Brody and Knightley fans will be delighted to learn that both show a lot of skin. Maybe that’s incentive enough.

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