A high-octane thrill ride, “Jackdaw” surprises at every turn, keeping viewers engaged through the heartfelt drama and relentless action.
Jack Dawson (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, The Haunting of Bly Manor, The Invisible Man) is a former motocross champion.
He’s just returned home to Northeast England from a stint in the army following the unexpected death of his mother in order to care for his younger autistic brother, Simon (Leon Harrop, making his big screen debut).
Jack receives a voicemail message from an old running mate and local criminal, Silas (Joe Blakemore, The Third Day), offering him easy money for a quick package retrieval from the freezing waters of the North Sea. Though reluctant to fall back into bad patterns, he desperately needs the money to help secure a better life for himself and Simon. Thus, he reluctantly accepts the job.
In a stunningly photographed scene, Jack sails out across the sea to make the pickup but quickly discovers this treasure is well-guarded, leading to the first of a few high-octane chase scenes as Jack is pursued across the choppy waters by two men on jet skis.
Having narrowly escaped, Jack makes it to the delivery point where his bounty is supposed to be waiting; only there’s no money. Instead, a man on horseback carrying a torch and a shotgun is waiting for him.
After a frenzied journey to make it home, following one harrowing obstacle after another, Jack finally reaches safety only to discover his brother has been kidnapped.
Believing Silas to be behind the double-cross and kidnapping, the man known by the nickname Jackdaw sets out in search of answers.
What follows is a stylish, intense, and action-packed late-night trek across the industrial Northeast as Jack enlists the help of old associates and new friends to get to his brother by any means necessary.
Along the way, we meet a dazzling cast of characters, most of whom are remnants of a past Jack has been running from.
There’s the fierce, take-no-prisoners gym owner Eddy (Vivienne Acheampong), who equips Jack with a firearm and some helpful intel. Then there’s his old flame, Bo (the remarkable Jenna Coleman, Doctor Who, The Sandman), the kind-hearted but badass leader of an all-female biker gang.
Jack inadvertently befriends an associate of Silas, Craig (Thomas Turgoose), following a police bust at a warehouse rave. Turgoose is an absolute delight, injecting the film with some much-needed humor and giving us some joy-inducing moments of “buddy film” magic.
Jack’s encounters with Silas are tense and chilling as Blakemore chews scenery like nobody’s business. Intense and wild-eyed, he plays Silas like an unpredictable powder keg of kinetic energy and unhinged madness.
Along the way, we’re treated to a few unexpected twists and turns as key bits of backstory are cleverly revealed in surprising ways.
Finally, we’re introduced to an even bigger threat than Silas, forcing Jack to confront the painful demons of his past.
Writer/director Jamie Childs, best known for his television work on The Sandman and His Dark Materials, admits to writing Jackdaw in a kind of “fever dream” where the very physical script centered around extensive choreographed action just poured out of him.
To make this relentless, chaotic night-time odyssey, the production team had to pull off incredible feats at a breakneck pace. Once the script was received, they had five weeks to prep for a four-week shoot, followed by an eight-week edit. They tackled it with a kind of ferocity and frenetic energy that translates to what you see on screen.
The cast is phenomenal, which is unsurprising given the pedigree most of them bring to the table.
Jackson-Cohen is especially riveting in the lead role, anchoring nearly every scene with his compelling combination of intensity and sensitivity, conveying a strong emotional depth while managing to be utterly convincing as an unstoppable force of nature.
Jackdaw features an array of stellar set pieces, including a rough-and-tumble gym full of hulking beasts, a crypto farm, an underground rave at a converted warehouse, a biker compound, a criminals’ headquarters at a former bingo hall, and a mob boss’s mansion. Each location is cooler and more chaotic than the last.
Additionally, spectacular scenic photography makes the various outdoor locations a treat to behold.
The soundtrack is full of bangers, and the pulse-pounding score perfectly compliments the film’s manic energy. One epic fight scene is choreographed to perfection over Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam & The Ants, and it’s at once funny, ferocious, stylish, and gloriously berserk.
There’s another sublimely photographed chase scene that takes place at night between a motorcycle and an automobile, and it’s masterfully executed with a breathtaking use of light and shadows.
Jackdaw vacillates wildly between being darkly comedic and tension-filled or emotionally affecting. Quiet moments of character drama are followed by balls-to-the-wall, high-octane action.
It all culminates in a nerve-wracking finale and a richly satisfying and surprisingly tender ending, offering a great payoff for the thrilling, madcap journey.
Bonus points: It takes place during Christmas time, so it makes a perfect power-packed pairing with Die Hard. Add it to your must-watch list immediately.