The piece below was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.
What do you get when you take Tony Scott’s early sensibility, a dash of Refn’s Drive, and a healthy portion of motocross for good measure? Well you got yourself a stew called Jackdaw.
Set in the aforementioned Scott’s home countryside of industrial Northern England, Jackdaw follows a former motocross champ resorting to a life of crime to support his younger brother. The job goes sideways and the audience is treated to an intense 90 minute thriller that weaves in and out of a beautifully lit rust belt, mostly on the back of a motorbike.
It’s set in a familial backdrop where our characters have to chase or run from their past, and our lead Jack Dawson is aptly played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Similarly to Gosling in Drive, he’s not doing a lot of emoting here, but keeping that stoicism engaging is a deceptively hard task. There’s a fine line between icy mystery and dull self seriousness, and Jackson-Cohen aligns himself on the right side.
The rest of the cast works well, but for the most part they’re not really why you’re here (though a surprising turn from a Game of Thrones veteran is very welcome). You also don’t really come to Jackdaw for an intricate plot: it’s pretty straightforward and while there’s fun double-crossing it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel.
You come to Jackdaw mainly for the aesthetic. The comparison to Tony Scott isn’t just visual, it’s also how the movie functions on feeling and immersion in a place. Top Gun’s plot isn’t what sells that movie, it’s the vibes – which are similarly applied here.
The movie starts stronger than it finishes and the whole thing coasts mostly on those aforementioned vibes, but they’re pretty great – so why not lean into it.