It seems that there is a new serial killer in the Los Angeles area and he’s modeling his kills after the infamous Jack the Ripper killings from a hundred year ago. This is the premise for the thriller Jack’s Back (1988) which stars James Spader as twin brothers John and Rick Wesford. It seems that Rick’s brother John committed suicide and was the new Jack the Ripper serial killer. This isn’t possible as Rick had a nightmare of this brother being hanged by an unknown man; he believes that his brother was killed and framed and will stop at nothing to find the person responsible. He finds help in a co-worker of his brother by the name of Chris Moscari (Cynthia Gibb) and together they seek to discover the truth before the cops and the real killer get a hold of Rick.
Jack’s Back is a tight mystery and suspense thriller with a strong yet subtle performance by Spader (which he was known for in the ‘80s and early ‘90s). There is not much differentiation between the two brothers but that okay because even this early in his career Spader has an undeniable star presence and carries the whole film. Written and directed by Rowdy Herrington this is a concise and straight forward thriller (similar to his Striking Distance – 1993 and A Murder of Crows – 1998).
This film ages better than most thrillers of this time period as Jack the Ripper is always a topical subject for films but it lacks the wham-bang punch of more modern thrillers (which I actually like the film more for) and may seem more passé to modern audiences. Regardless, it remains a gem of Spader’s earlier exploits as an actor and that right there elevates it above the other cannon fodder.