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You Don't Know Jack

4.5 out of 5 stars 295 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Angel of mercy… or murderous “Doctor Death”? Jack Kervorkian is one of the most polarizing figures in modern American history, a man whose passionate belief that people have the right to die has brought him both praise and vilification. Oscar®- and Emmy®-winning actor Al Pacino brings “Dr. Death” to life in an all-new HBO Films presentation: You Don’t Know Jack, directed by Oscar®-winner Barry Levinson.


Made for HBO, Barry Levinson's sympathetic telefilm casts an affable eye on a serious subject: the mission of Jack Kevorkian (a thoroughly de-glamorized Al Pacino). In the opening sequence, Kevorkian tells his long-suffering sister, Margo (Brenda Vaccaro, excellent), how hard he found it to watch their mother die a long and agonizing death. Convinced that the terminally ill deserve the right to die with dignity, he shares his beliefs with Jack (James Urbaniak), a Detroit journalist; Janet (Susan Sarandon), a Hemlock Society leader; and Neal (John Goodman), a medical supply salesman (the scenes of Neal and Jack playing poker recall Levinson's Diner). Before he's assisted a single patient, Kevorkian makes the national news, prompting Neal to quip, "You're not a local quack anymore. You're America's quack." Writer Adam Mazer profiles several of the 130 patients to take advantage of his "mercy machine," starting with Janet Adkins, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. For protection, Jack acquires the services of attorney Geoffrey Fieger (Danny Huston), who supports him through evictions, lawsuits, jail time, and hunger strikes--until Kevorkian engineers his own downfall by defending himself. As with HBO's Recount, Levinson adds archival footage at key points, such that Barbara Walters and others appear to play themselves. If he handles Jack's quirks with humor, he always treats the afflicted with respect, and if Pacino's accent skews more New York than Michigan, his pleasure in playing this strong-willed eccentric fuels Levinson's finest directorial effort in ages. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

The Real Jack/Inner Circle: Behind-the-scenes featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon, Danny Huston
  • Directors: Barry Levinson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: October 26, 2010
  • Run Time: 134 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003EV6DCG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,838 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "You Don't Know Jack" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Once upon a time this film would have been released in theatres and this lead performance and maybe even Brenda Vaccaro's would have been nominated for Academy Awards. That is how good this film is, award worthy, notable for it's stellar execution and story, a standout for this year. Al Pacino's Jack Kevorkian is not his best work in a decade, as some have speculated. It is his best work since Angels in America (from 2003), also an HBO produced and presented film. He is as commanding in that amazing series as in this. Pacino has always been physically gifted as an actor; adept at expressing his emotions with his back or his head, his hands or his walk. I think his reputation as actor has suffered in the last twenty years because he moved away from using his body (essential to the art of acting) and compensated with his voice. In this context, this film is a return to form: Donnie Brasco, Carlito's Way, Glengarry Glen Ross, Scent of a Woman, Dick Tracy, to name his best work since 1990.

You Don't Know Jack is an apt title for this film, because I was certainly aware of Jack Kevorkian growing up, knew he was an advocate and involved in euthanasia and that he went to prison, but I didn't know he was such an iconoclast; morbid, graphic and unapologetic painter, a musician, a bachelor and a civil disobedient. These characteristics add to his legend, and his stature as a doctor who seems to have taken his profession and life's work as something more than a path to prestige and wealth, which cannot be said of some doctors in truth and perhaps too many in reputation. The role of the physician in society is an aspect of the successful story told here.
The role of the politician and the collective social fears of death in our society are the other themes, and they too are well told.
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Format: DVD
As you already know, most people who watch this film have already formed an opinion about doctor-assisted suicide. So rather than discuss ethics, this review will simply be about the film itself.

What stands out most about this movie is the terrific performance by Al Pacino, which is easily his best in the last decade. Al slips effortlessly into character, and delivers a nuanced performance that honestly makes you forget you're watching a Pacino film. I was also impressed with the zeal that Danny Huston brought to his portrayal of Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's outspoken attorney.

I found the film to be revealing, but fairly unbiased in its portrayal of Kevorkian. While you're provided with an understanding of his motive by the film's conclusion, you're still presented with both sides of the debate. The movie also doesn't pull any punches with respect to revealing some of Kevorkian's eccentricities, or the self-deprecating "quack" jokes that take place. The film obviously calls for a little levity, and is punctuated by the occasional light joke. The cinematography and lighting was quality, and I enjoyed the peaceful score by Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos.

Overall, I think the film is worth watching for Pacino's performance alone. I don't think there's anything about the movie that would change someone's perspective, but for better or worse it sheds some light on Kevorkian's beliefs.
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Format: DVD
Director Barry Levinson ('Diner', 'The Natural', 'Good Morning, Vietnam', 'Rain Man', 'Avalon', Bugsy', etc) has obviously taken a chance with his latest film YOU DON'T KNOW JACK, a cinematic evaluation of the notorious and controversial Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Detroit pathologist who upon retiring from his career felt compelled to create a manner for people suffering chronic disease, paralytic illness, chemotherapy failures, and those pleading to die with dignity to have a choice as to whether they by law must linger in misery or be given the opportunity to have a doctor assisted suicide. Whether or not viewers react positively or negatively to this film for HBO will probably be tainted with personal convictions about assisted suicide rather than whether the film is worthy or a diatribe. But that is the still ongoing dilemma of the topic raised by the elderly Armenian physician's choices or convictions and one that the film explores well.

As for the film itself, it is a tour de force of acting performances: Al Pacino transforms himself physically and technically to bring the personality of Jack Kevorkian to life. It is a role of so many fine nuances that demonstrates ho Pacino truly does inhabit the title of the film. This Kevorkian is shown to be a man driven to be an outspoken activists for human rights - especially the right to die. His sister Margo, played to perfection by Brenda Vacarro, is the lonely Jack's sole source of emotional support, while his old friend and hospital medic Neal Nicol (who technically assists Kevorkian) is made a three dimensional person by John Goodman. Another supporter is the Hemlock Society worker Janet Good, another fine role for Susan Sarandon, and Danny Huston (almost unrecognizable in a wig) is Jack's pro bono lawyer Geoffrey Fieger.
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Format: DVD
Unable to wait to review this latest HBO Films offering, just a few days ago I searched for the dvd to no avail. Here it is and I'm already umpteenth on the list to review.

This is a damned good film, just absolutely quality. One query I have: why isn't Hollyweird making these anymore?--good movies, I mean. What, is HBO Films taking over now that the sign's going?

Thank God for these favors. Al Pacino hits this performance out of the ballpark, and anyone paying attention will have noted Dr. Kevorkian saying when he first saw clips, he thought it was himself, not Pacino. THAT is good. That gives you an idea of the workings of this film. Though it is difficult to get to know a man like Dr. Kevorkian, Pacino makes us feel like we are in the room with him.

Admit it, who would pass that up?

This film, with its tense, up-close-and-personal shots, with its flashbacks and Pacino cleverly inserted into some (not all) of Dr. Kevorkian's "video consultations", this film is a slice of life and a piece of cake...something Hitchcock never could do. Not that it is Hitchcockian. Levinson knows better than trying to do that. There's no shortage of talent here...the other reviews spell out nicely all the great work by John Goodman, Brenda Vacarro, Danny Huston (I don't care for him at all but he's good here) and Susan Sarandon, one of my all-time favorites. The extras are mind-blowing. When was the last time you could say that about a movie?

The acting in this film reminds me of the best films of the 1940s and 1950s, many of those starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Pacino's Kevorkian keeps a plucky humor laced throughout even the saddest moments, as does Brenda V. as his sister Margot Janus.
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