Big-screen legend Al Pacino has done some severe stinkers over the last few years, namely, the laughable “Righteous Kill” and the absurd “88 Minutes.” Both of those films were just plain bad — gag-inducingly bad, in fact.
Pacino’s latest film, a made-for-TV affair entitled “You Don’t Know Jack,” doesn’t look as bad as either of the aforementioned films, but neither does it look likely to sweep the Emmys anytime soon. “You Don’t Know Jack” is the story of infamous right-to-die Michigan doctor Jack Kevorkian. While Kevorkian’s story is modestly provocative and undeniably thought provoking, it’s certainly not the stuff of box-office gold. That fact is likely a large part of the reason why this film is being produced for HBO as opposed to the local multiplex.
Admittedly, Kevorkian is a somewhat mysterious, somewhat intriguing figure who the public has never really known outside his ghoulish reputation. On that level, a biopic certainly makes sense, but such a project isn’t likely to carry much mass appeal. HBO Films is known for the quality of its productions, though, and director Barry Levinson has done his own share of laudable work. In this brief clip, Al Pacino appears to completely submerge himself in the role, too — all of which suggests that “You Don’t Know Jack” will likely be a welcome return to form for Pacino and a decent bit of entertainment for HBO subscribers; it’s unlikely to win HBO many — if any — new subscribers, though, and it’s equally unlikely to leave an indelible mark on pop culture.
The biggest thing working against this film is its title. “You Don’t Know Jack” sounds like a comedy to me (or a Jack in the Box commercial) and I doubt I’ll be alone in that impression. HBO will need to really push to make this film’s tone and subject matter clear.
Regardless, Pacino probably won’t be remembered for this role any more than he’ll be remembered for “Righteous Kill” or “88 Minutes.” I’d be willing to wager though, that “You Don’t Know Jack” will be far more entertaining than either of those dogs.
“You Don’t Know Jack,” which also stars John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, debuts on HBO April 24.
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