NY1 Movie Review: "You Don't Know Jack"
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Al Pacino plays Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a right-to-die advocate whose nickname became "Dr. Death," in the new HBO movie "You Don't Know Jack."
The film begins with Kevorkian in his early 60s, living in Michigan and lobbying for his terminally ill patients. He wants them to be allowed to commit suicide, so he decides to assist them and becomes an advocate for the procedure.
Kevorkian gets himself a savvy layer, who most of the time, gets Kevorkian off on criminal charges whenever he performs a patient-assisted suicide. Soon, Kevorkian is getting national headlines.
Kevorkian engages in some outrageous behavior in numerous courtrooms to get attention that will further his cause. He also goes on a hunger strike when he's jailed to prove his point.
Behind the headlines, viewers learn about the man himself and how he is totally committed to his beliefs. His closest relationships are with his sister, played by Brenda Vaccaro, and two friends, played by John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, who all believe in what he's doing and help him carry out his mission.
Director Barry Levinson doesn't hold back, showing you the heartbreaking stories of patients who are suffering and who just want their pain to stop. The numerous death scenes that Kevorkian helps orchestrate are shown and could make viewers squirm.
The film succeeds in humanizing the man who for a time became the punchline to a lot of late night comics' jokes. As the debate on euthanasia goes on to this day, the movie successfully raises a number of questions, but it's a bit too long, as some of the same points are often repeated.
It is one Al Pacino's finest performances. At times he's low-key, at times he's fiery and he's very effective in both arenas. He makes the film worth seeing, as he effectively shows the man behind the headlines.
Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 3 Apples