AW Kautzer's Film Review Fantastic Fest Film

Jackdaw: Fantastic Fest 2023 


Jackdaw is to dirt bikes what Drive was to cars.  Oliver Jackson-Cohen stars in the stylish, fast-paced, atmospheric crime film.  Playing at Fantastic Fest 2023. 

Laconic is one of the hardest things for an actor to be in a film.  It isn’t just something you do or act.  You just are. McQueen, Ford, and Pitt all at some point gained that ability just to be.  Another actor and soon-to-be Star, Oliver Jackson-Cohen has it.  The proof is in the surprising UK Crime Thriller Jackdaw.  

From the moment we meet Jackson-Cohen’s Jack Dawson prepping his dirt bike for something we know nothing good can come of, we’re drawn into the star’s gravity.  There is an inherent watchability to everything he does.  That ineffable glint behind the eyes.  History, pain, sorrow, happiness but long ago.  It’s all there.  We watch him and the care and worry he has for his brother.  We know nothing good will come of him leaving.  All the same, we are ready to go with Jack on this long perilous journey into the darkest of nights in North of England.  

Jackdaw the feature film debut of writer/director Jamie Childs is a propulsive 90-minute thriller that’s rhythm tied to the EDM beats of the Raves and Clubs it orbits.  Not as ponderous as Drive but just as stylish in its way.  The film’s narrative, a triple cross of sorts that finds Jack literally racing his constantly breaking down bike around farms, roads (both paved and dirt), and dilapidated industrial complexes to find his younger brother.  Everyone from ex-flames, druggies, drug dealers, club kids, and true-blue gangsters stand in his way as the night progresses.  

The film ultimately twists and turns by its end into something entirely different than where it begins.  Weightier than an exercise in style.  Childs as a director understands the balance between style and substance in a crime thriller the way that Michael Mann does.  The way the film allows the inference of history and life between the lines is an affectation few films/storytellers are able to pull off that doesn’t feel empty and vacant.  Jackdaw does that balance in a way that fans of crime fiction will appreciate.  

Jackdaw isn’t just a great crime thriller, it’s an announcement.  Oliver Jackson-Cohen has leveled up beyond interesting actor to full-on Movie Star.  Let us hope that it doesn’t take other filmmakers long to catch up.  

Jackdaw is playing at Fantastic Fest 09/22 and 09/27

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