The attraction of a remake? The possibility of luring both new and old audiences with a film that is at once novel and timeless. It's like sleeping with someone you fancy only to discover you're already married to them.

A remake, almost by definition, is never as good as the original. This has never stopped Hollywood from re-filming some of the best movies in a process that usually smears and reduces a classic into a star vehicle. For Hollywood, however, a remake is not supposed to be better than the original, only different. The remake's attraction? The possibility of luring both new and old audiences with a heady mix of opposites - a film which is at once novel and timeless. Why, a successful remake is like sleeping with someone you fancy only to discover you're already married to them. Perfect!

That's what the modern makers of The Jackal (1997) must have been thinking. Their conversation, the movie's pitch, must have gone like this: `Hey, let's take this classic thriller and stick in a big star..." "Like, Bruce Willis?" "Yeah! Then pit him against another big star...", "Richard Gere's hot in Tibet..." "Yeah! Willis could do his I'm sucking-on-a-cough-sweetie face - which he thinks is what the world's most deadly assassin would look like. Meanwhile, Gere's Irish accent will be the worst since Dick Van Dyke did Poppins." "But Dick Van Dyke wasn't Irish...", "Irish, English, Scotch, who cares? At least we won't have Gary Oldman or Cary Elwes sounding more American than we do. With Willis and Gere on board, it HAS to be a hit. We'll get the guy vote with Willis and Gere will get the vote from..." "Buddhists!" "Yeah. Buddhists. And Tibetans."

And so it goes. The Day Of The Jackal becomes The Jackal. Without going into the modern film's idiocy, it is possible to compare the two movies in one scene. In the original, The Jackal (Edward Fox) has an evil, thin, skeleton-like rifle made for him by gunsmith Cyril Cusack. In 1997, it is a huge mo'fo of a cannon in the meathooks of Willis's Jackal. Cusack, sadly no longer with us, and Fox join together for one of the most breathtaking scenes in cinema - the checking of the gun. For me, this single scene highlights one vital distinction between Jackal 1997 and Jackal 1974: the difference between stars and actors. I know which I'd rather watch.

Tellingly, The Day Of The Jackal received three important Oscar nominations in 1974. It won none. But that's the rule of the Oscars. The classics, the ones that count, never win. I blush to say it, but I had never seen The Day Of The Jackal until two days ago. Although 23 years old, it is one of the best films I've seen in almost 40 years of moviegoing. As for The Jackal (1997), I have two words. It stinks.

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