Fantastic Fest XVIII Review: Jamie Childs’s JACKDAW Burns The Midnight Oil In A High-Speed Cat-And-Mouse Thriller With An Even Darker Twist
Filmmaker Jamie Childs’ recent TV credits on Disney+ series “Willow” and Netflix’s “The Sandman” should be an ample warm-up for those who’ve seen his work, and are keen on what the first-time feature director now offers with his latest debut, Jackdaw. At ninety-six minutes, the film packs in a steadily-paced and cerebral crime thriller that runs the gamut for a story set during the course of one night, trekking England’s Northern rust belt amid a heist gone awry.
Par for the course is a harrowing story of redemption, hitting the ground running as ex-soldier and motocross champion Jack Dawson – a.k.a. Jackdaw (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) – sets out to acquire a package in the North Sea for crime boss Silas (Joe Blakemore). Efforting to make some quick cash to leave town with his younger brother, Simon (Leon Harrop), it isn’t long after the parcel’s retrieval that Jackdaw realizes he’s being pursued by unknown figures. As the chase gives way on land and with Jackdaw stranded with no payment as promised, it’s only a matter of time before he arrives home and notices his brother missing, with only one clue as to who possibly kidnapped him.
All of this occurs in just over an intense period of just over twenty minutes into Jackdaw as the our protagonist commences a dangerous mission to find his brother’s whereabouts. Joined reluctantly by a straggler and junkie named Craig (Thomas Turgoose), that ultimately means unraveling the unyielding mystery of the package and who it potentially belongs to, taking our hero on a treacherous journey of bittersweet reunions with old friends, lost loves, bitter enemies, and for all intents and purposes, family.
Directed by Childs from his own script, Jackdaw is a tightly-knit neo-noir English crime thriller with all the trimmings. Jackson-Cohen toes the line in a solid and strong leading role that should delight anyone who perhaps last saw him in any of his recent credits. For me it was Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man where he plays the titular villain opposite Elisabeth Moss in the 2020 film. He also stars as the über-successcul thrill-seeking killer-for-hire who hunts down Dwayne Johnson’s character in 2010’s Faster.
Jenna Coleman, who shares credits on “The Sandman” with Childs, gets to reunite with her Prime Video series “Wilderness” star here in the new film as Bo, a fellow motocross biker who shares a romantic past with Jackdaw prior to his disappearance into the military. What throws me a little is that their lovelorn recouping comes with a caveat in that she insists on drugging him, albeit not against his will though. It’s an affable, toxic romance, for sure, but it contributes with certitude the kind of nuance they share in the space their world lives in. For what it’s worth, their ending proves to be just as bittersweet as their reunion, if anything.
Along for the ride is Thomas Turgoose who lends key support as Craig, who gets swept into the mix just as a rave gets broken up by a police raid where Jackdaw also crosses paths for the first time in this story with crazed drug lord Silas, played by the aforementioned Blakemore. They clash a few times in this film and during these moments, there’s at least one in which during a high-speed chase, viewers are given a snapshot into both characters and the notion that there’s more to them than just black-and-white animosity.
As the story winds down, a darker twist begins materializing among quite a few of the film’s recapitulations. It reveals itself in the final moments of the film with co-star Rory McCann bookending things in the second half, resulting in a confrontation that forces our protagonist to leave things up to chance, and it’s a real gripping moment of truth leading up to the film’s final shot.
Topped off with a slick, rustic look and lively soundtrack mingling Eurodance with 90s house and British folk music, and ripe with dark contours to accompany the film’s cold grit and allure, Jackdaw delivers a taut, atmospherically moody, hypnotic and action-packed noir that doesn’t run out of gas before the closing-credits.
Screened for Fantastic Fest.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.