The Jack Bull DVD


The Jack Bull was produced for and premiered on American television network HBO, but it's easily the most respectable job that feature director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames) has done in the past two decades. The title refers to a metaphorical Jack Russell terrier that, once it's annoyed enough to close its jaws on something, will hang on to the point of death. This terrier is Myrl Redding (John Cusack), a horse breeder of limited means who has a deeply entrenched sense of justice. His independence galls Henry Ballard (L Q Jones), the crusty land baron... out to set his brand on most of the countryside. Ballard insults and cheats Redding several times over and his men beat Redding's Indian horse trainer and friend (Rodney A Grant). When Redding seeks redress from the law, its agents can't be bothered as the local magistrate is in Ballard's pocket. So Redding musters a vigilante army to enforce his own law. Scratch this handsome but rigorously unromanticised Western—a full hour passes without a shot being fired--and you find the classic Heinrich von Kleist book Michael Kohlhaas transposed to Wyoming Territory on the eve of statehood. The script--by the star/producer's dad, Dick Cusack--is sturdy and uncompromising and willing to engage the knotty ambiguities of embracing vigilantism even in a just cause. Badham's decision to treat the authorities (Scott Wilson, Jay O Sanders, John Goodman) as period caricatures is regrettable but John Cusack is solid as a figure of utterly matter-of-fact integrity. --Richard T. Jameson, [show more]

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07 June 2004
Cinema Club 
112 minutes 
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