With its twins, dead prostitutes and copious dream sequences, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Jack’s Back is a lost Brian De Palma movie. In fact, it was written and directed by Rowdy Herrington, who – although probably best-known for the 1989 Patrick Swayzefest, Road House – specializes in hard-edged thrillers like Striking Distance (1993), A Murder of Crows (1998) and I Witness (2003), the latter of which reunited him with his leading man from this project, James Spader.
Spader plays rebellious medical student John Wesford, who splits his spare time between working at a free clinic and getting interviewed for the local news about the plight of L.A.’s homeless people. Also on the local news – and aggressively foreshadowed every time any character so much as walks past a TV set – is the ongoing police investigation into a serial killer who’s copycatting the crimes of Jack the Ripper one hundred years after the fact… to the very day! Why he’s doing it in Los Angeles, however, is never actually addressed.
Anyway, the gist of all this is that (a) prostitutes are turning up dead in very messy crime scenes, (b) a pregnant woman is probably going to be butchered next, and (c) Wesford is somehow going to get dragged into all this, along with his super-hot secret admirer and fellow med student, Cynthia Gibb! That’s all you’re getting on the subject of the plot, however, because Jack’s Back is one of those films that works better the less you know about it on the way in.
I’m tempted to draw a comparison with De Palma’s Dressed to Kill – not because this movie is anything like as good, but because the twists come satisfyingly thick even if you’ve guessed the identity of the killer (which, admittedly, isn’t a massive kick in the grey cells). That also means it’s good for a re-watch, making it all the more unfortunate that it hasn’t yet had a proper DVD or Blu-ray release. The closest is a full-frame video transfer put out on DVD in the UK a few years ago by a company I’ve never heard of before or since, called 111 Pictures.