You Don't Know Jack

Critics Consensus

Led by strong direction from Barry Levinson and outstanding work from Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack makes compelling viewing out of real-life drama.



Total Count: 11


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,834
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Movie Info

Al Pacino stars as Dr. Jack Kevorkian in director Barry Levinson's made-for-HBO biopic tracing the controversial career of the outspoken assisted suicide advocate/activist. Convinced that "dying is not a crime," Dr. Kevorkian (aka Dr. Death) creates a machine that allows terminally-ill medical patients to end their own lives in a peaceful, humane manner. When Dr. Kevorkian is forced to defend his philosophy and practices in court, a media firestorm erupts over a patient's right to die. Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, and Danny Huston star in a film produced by Scott Ferguson (The People vs. Larry Flint, Brokeback Mountain), and written by Adam Mazer (Breach). ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi


Al Pacino
as Dr. Jack Kevorkian
John Goodman
as Neal Nicol
Danny Huston
as Geoffrey Fieger
Susan Sarandon
as Janet Good
Brenda Vaccaro
as Margo Janus
James Urbaniak
as Jack Lessenberry
Eric Lange
as John Skrzynski
Cotter Smith
as Dick Thompson
Adam Mucci
as David Gorosh
David Wilson Barnes
as David Gorcyca
Ana Reeder
as Lynn Mills
Sandra Seacat
as Janet Adkins
Deborah Hedwall
as Melody Youk
Rondi Reed
as Judge Cooper
Todd Susman
as Stan Levy
Jennifer Mudge
as Female Reporter
Jeremy Bobb
as David Rivlin
Henry Russell
as Oakhill Supervisor
Henry Strozier
as Oakhill Doctor
Neil Cunningham
as Ron Adkins
John Rue
as Ray Good
Allen Lewis Rickman
as Dr. Dragovic
Thomas Piper
as Local News Anchor
Richard Council
as Judge David Breck
Jason Babinsky
as Detective
Teresa Yenque
as Isabel Correa
Jaime Tirelli
as Trino Correa
John Henry Cox
as Mr. Kinsey
Adam Driver
as Glen Stetson
Tom Kemp
as Carl Marlinga
Jordan Lage
as Beaumont Doctor
Mason Petit
as Construction Worker
Daryl Edwards
as Judge Jackson
Michael Ingram
as Mayer Morganroth
Meghan Rafferty
as Female Reporter
Kam Carman
as Female Reporter
View All

Critic Reviews for You Don't Know Jack

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (10) | Rotten (1)

  • Displaying its own media savvy, Jack is sympathetic to Kevorkian but not polemical.

    Feb 7, 2018 | Full Review…
    Top Critic
  • Pacino and Levinson seem to have made a deliberate decision to keep Jack's rough edges. There is no attempt to make him heroic; we have to come to any such decision on our own.

    Jun 7, 2017 | Full Review…
  • You Don't Know Jack may be a film about the case for making dying patients comfortable. But admirably, it recognizes that thinking about this, or watching, should be discomfiting.

    Jun 7, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Levinson has a deft touch with ordinary people and places, and the film's early scenes, especially, take care of business in a satisfying, sideways fashion, developing character with exposition and finding every avenue for real-world humor.

    Jun 7, 2017 | Full Review…
  • We're like Sarandon's Janet Good, begging from our deathbeds for Jack to tell us something about himself and arriving at the end of things without any greater understanding than we had at the start.

    Jun 7, 2017 | Full Review…
  • You Don't Know Jack is a compelling, at times thrilling, tale that can absorb even those with little interest or feeling for the subject. This is one of the saddest, dreariest subjects imaginable, but You Don't Know Jack is anything but.

    Jun 7, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for You Don't Know Jack

  • Jul 21, 2019
    So, assisted suicide, we are gonna need to talk about you today. This is a very touchy subject, particularly in a country that's so much controlled by the religious right as the United States is. Now, of course, this film looks at events, now, over 20 years ago and I haven't kept up with the laws and I do not know how many states have passed laws in favor of physician assisted suicide in cases where there's no other form of action to be taken to help the person improve, if not their chances of survival, if it's a terminal illness, then their quality of life. I've always been of the opinion that, in cases such as where there's a terminal illness where the person is in constant pain and slowly, over a period of time, withers away while their family suffers, and the person in question is rational, competent and of sound mind, then how can ANYONE oppose that person's decision to end their life with a little bit of dignity where they, essentially, just go into a deep sleep that they never wake up from. How is that better than the alternative of a person, on life support, having the plug pulled on them by their family and them, basically, starving to death. Which of these sounds like the more humane solution??? Did you know that Patricia Clarkson, from Everybody Loves Raymond, is against assisted suicide. For religious reasons, because of course she is. I think some advocacy groups engage in willful misinformation and they claim that, wrongfully I might add, that this means that disabled people should be eliminated. And nobody has ever actually said that, because it would be against the person's will. The arguments are that the person who is suffering should make the decision as to whether or not end their life and I'm all for it. People can't live their own lives and now they're trying to live everyone else's. Of course, I'm also for setting up a complex series of hoops so not just anybody can apply for this. We're gonna need as many opinions as we can get, medical records, extensive medical examinations, psychiatric evaluations to determine whether the person is actually suffering and in legitimate pain that they cannot recover from or if they're just lonely, depressed and/or isolated. If they're in the latter group, help set them up with groups that can help with what afflicts them. Now that my spiel is out of the way, in terms of this movie, I'll be honest, of course I knew of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Who, around my age, doesn't know about this guy? I knew about him back before I was an adult and, back then, the perception I had of this guy was what I saw on TV, which was that he was a serial killer. I didn't have an opinion of him in the slightest, but that was just the way the media sensationalized the case. It was a little bit later in life that I did some research on Mr. Kevorkian and came to the realization of what it is that he was doing and his reasoning for it. This movie tells that story as Dr. Kevorkian goes around his business of, um, well assisting in his patients' deaths while also trying to circumvent the law and the super religious DA that attempts to stop him every chance he gets. In a lot of ways, this is kind of a heartbreaking movie to watch at times, because you do get to see some footage of the real interviews that Kevorkian filmed (most shot by his sister) with Al Pacino inserted through CG. It's really tragic to hear these stories of people who are in immense pain and the fact that they feel like the only way they can reach the peace they've been looking for is by dying. What I think the movie does well, outside of Al Pacino's FANTASTIC performance, is the fact that Dr. Kevorkian's message may have been the right one, it's just that he may not have been the right messenger for. He engages in a lot of grandstanding with authorities and that might give the impression that he is longing for the attention instead of trying to start a real national debate about a touchy subject. But I do think they balance that with the fact that, as nutty as Jack may be at times, he is also an incredibly intelligent and rational man. It's just that his honesty and no-filter approach on things might have turned more people against him than he would have wanted. The fact is that Dr. Kevorkian's methods weren't perfect and that's been reported on many times after his release and death in 2011. He never actually met his first patient, he just talked with her husband while the film presents it as they had an extensive interview on camera where Janet, the woman in question, tells her about the suffering she is in. There's people that might have been depressed and assisted suicide might not have been the best course of action. There's another woman that was misdiagnosed with MS. Things like that are things that the movie conveniently ignores. But, the thing is, I feel like the truth might have helped push more the theme of the fact that the message is the right one, it's just that Jack, despite his honest intentions, just wasn't the right messenger. The film is really compelling to watch and, despite its length, it never once dragged. I mean it's a movie that I wish I could go into more detail about, but if I did, I would be here forever. I just think that this is one of those films, and topics, that will inspire spirited debate and I don't wanna keep going. As far as a film is concerned, this is a really damn good movie and Al Pacino gives, in my opinion, one of his best latter-day performances. For that alone, I can recommend it, even if you're wholeheartedly against the concept of assisted suicide but can still appreciate a quality film.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Dec 14, 2013
    You don't Know Jack is a well crafted biopic on Jack Kevorkian, the assisted suicide advocate who was charged on murder for killing his patients. With this film we get the reasons as to why he did what he did, but I won't go into detail on the issues that the film presents, but what we have here is a well acted drama with a great cast of actors who truly deliver some stunning performances. In the lead role is Al Pacino, and he delivers one of his finest performances in a long time. The film tells an important story, one that can actually raise important questions in the viewer. Brilliantly directed, and well paced, the film is a stunning drama that is a worth seeing. Pacino is a great choice for playing Kevorkian, and this ends up being an engaging drama that will make you think. The film follows Jack Kevorkian as he tries to help people end their suffering by assisted suicide right up to his trial for murder. This is a well directed picture about a serious issue, and director Barry Levinson crafts something truly unique here. The film is never dull or boring because the cast are really good and the story well structured. No matter your feelings on the subject, the film is a must see do the fact that Al Pacino gives a standout performance that just bristles with energy. I really enjoyed the film and thought it was a terrific picture from start to finish. The writing here is terrific, and the film is one of the most memorable and entertaining dramas in recent memory. You Don't Know Jack is a well crafted picture that in the end, might make you ask some important questions, and it's a film that will stay with you long after you've seen it.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jul 13, 2012
    Forget Captain Jack, it looks like Doctor Jack has a real life-destroying drug for you to take when you're down in the dumps. Eh, if I was going die at the hands of any Jack, then I would stick with the Captain, and I don't mean the drug dealer character who Billy Joel came up with, I mean the actual song "Captain Jack", because by the time that song is over, I'll probably be dead of old age, and plus, it's an absolutely amazing song (Kids, if you haven't heard it, then you're not allowed to listen to any other "music" until you hear it, even though by the time you finish it, it will probably have been the last song you ever heard), so the death will be an extra pleasant one; certainly more pleasant than what Dr. Jack Kevorkian probably has in mind, because on this film's poster, Al Pacino looks so perfect to be a serial killer that I'd imagine that Kevorkian has something more elaborate than giving you the option to euthanize yourself as a means of assisted suicide. I personally think that suicide is ridiculous, because it's pretty hard to find, well, anything worth dying for, but if I were to ever die by assisted suicide - which would probably be my type of suicide, seeing as how if I'm going to live by being too lazy to do something myself, then I'm going to die by it - my choice of death probably wouldn't be by skinning. Of course, again, it's just the poster that really makes Al Pacino look crazy as Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Oh yeah, because when you see him setting up people's suicide devices in the actual film, he seems totally reasonable. I'm surprised that this film didn't take liberties and have Kevorkian do something gory, because this is HBO, and they're big on making sure that you get your money's worth if you're gonna pay to not have censors. They certainly make sure that you get your money's worth if you're paying for good television, because this TV film is certainly better than the ones you usually find on network or cable, and yet, it still goes hurt quite a bit by quite a few factors. If you're thinking that the subject matter doesn't quite sound as though it warrant a runtime that exceeds 130, then congrats Sherlock, you're right on the money, as the film finds itself frequently bloated by cuttable material and even repetition, and after a while, the film loses quite a bit of steam. Still, the gratuitous elongation of the film isn't quite the most glaring misstep, with biggest problems being found within this film's inability to run away from TV sensibilities forever. HBO may be the biggest of big shots when it comes to television filmmaking, but at the end of the day, this is still television filmmaking, and no matter how much it dodges those common faults, it's only a matter of time before it gets to feeling much too TV. Even at an overlong just over 130 minutes, the film still hits its rushed spots, plopping in certain events with limited exposition, thus throwing you off a bit and leaving our characters to not have enough motivation built up behind them for us to really feel for them, no matter how much the more overly theatrical manipulative moments try to force some resonance out of us. All of this goes into supplementing the film's very TV limiting of subtlety that doesn't give us enough depth into our characters, and we seriously need that when our primary focus is someone as complex and worthy of mixed emotions as Dr. Jack Kevorkian, because, on a personal level, I found myself discomforted by the film's moments of over-glorification of a man who may have been well-intentioned and humane in his suicide assistings, but still brought people to death nevertheless, and on a critical level, no matter how blasted good Al Pacino is as Kevorkian, the limited subtlety diluted the complexities to this character and left us to not get enough of a feel for his depths. The film breaks little, if any ground when it comes to television filmmaking, and simply comes out as yet another made-for-HBO film. Of course, in all fairness, as I said, HBO sure knows how to make good television, so by its own right, expect this film to deliver like most every other HBO effort. Eigil Bryld's cinematography is mostly workmanlike, but finds its moments in which it stuns with its lovely emphasis on lighting that really does catch your eye. Still, it's not like you need a pretty camera shot to stick with this film, as its story is rock solid, perhaps not so much in execution, but enough in concept to really compel, which isn't to say that execution doesn't have its brights spots that really up the compellingness. Now, this isn't some Lifetime bull, where they take a story they like and slam-bang it together in an execution so bland, poor and conventional that they not only craft a mediocre mess, but ruin a worthy story, so while Barry Levinson doesn't handle this story as smoothly or as uniquely as he should have, or possibly would have without being pulled back by TV sensibilities, he draws plenty of intrigue and, maybe not too much depth, but still enough insight into these people, especially Kervorkian, for you to walk away with a lot to think about. The insight into these characters, of course, go intensified by the distinctive charisma and even intense emotional range of the star cast of such talents as a charming Danny Huston as Kevorkian's faithful lawyer, or a strong John Goodman as Kevorkian's dubious friend, or Brenda Vaccaro as Kevorkian's lively and loving sister, with leading man Al Pacino, as Kervorkian himself, particularly stepping up and reminding us of his being among the great classic actors by showing that he's still got it. Now, Pacino isn't quite going into an all-out burst of intense emoting, because this isn't the role for that, but what Pacino does about as well as you can be in this kind of role, expertly nailing Kevorkian's little mannerisms to spice up his transformation through an effortlessly thorough capturing of Kevorkian's personalities, depths and mindset with such awe-inspiring ease that you find yourself, well, hardly a minute into the film after Pacino hits the screen before you forget that you're even watching Al Pacino, and it's pretty hard to miss Al Pacino. Of course, the impressiveness of Pacino's performance doesn't simply end with his near-seamless transformation, for although the limited subtlety in the direction and writing keeps Pacino from unraveling the deepest of depths within someone as complex as Jack Kevorkian, when Pacino does manage to strike into the essence of Kevorkian, whether it be through some degree of strong emoting or a penetrating atmosphere, he unveils heavy layers and a deep sense of humanity that gives you a firm grip on the true being of Kevorkian. As I implied in my earlier statements against the concept of suicide and this film's occasional over-glorification of Kevorkian's acts, this film didn't fully reform my feelings towards Kevorkian, yet it did, with the help of Pacino's truly worthwhile performance - nay - transformation, leave my with much to chew on, and by the end I found myself entertained, compelled and overall more satisfied than not with the final product. In the end, you'll be left having likely checked your watch time and again, as the film gets to be so bloated and rather repetitious, yet still doesn't go without hurried points and some emotional manipulativeness to intensify the fair couple of moments in which this film collapses into TV sensibilities and limits subtlety, complexity and even originality, yet not to where the film is rendered underwhelming or even all that disengaging, as it not only catches your eye with the occasional fine bit in cinematography, but also your investment by boasting such a strong story that goes really brought to life by both Barry Levinson's generally inspired direction and a collection of worthwhile performances among the star cast, with leading man Al Pacino, in particular, effortlessly transforming all but entirely, while gracefully piercing into the essence of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in order to create both a compelling lead and stand as one of the key aspects that make "You Don't Know Jack" a thoroughly engrossing and ultimately rewarding study on, as the tagline put it, "life and deaths of Jack Kevorkian" that really does tell you quite a bit of what you don't know about Jack. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 19, 2012
    I'm willing to forgive You Don't Know Jack the one fault I really find in it: that the story bounces around so much, every character aside from Jack feels like a Special Guest Star. Beyond that, the film is a gripping, emotional, well acted sketch of the entire doctor assisted suicide issue. Al Pacino gives a stellar performance without overacting the part, coming off as remarkably sane and in control through most of the film. There are various subplots competing with one another which never get worked out (example: Kevorkian seems to see the hubris in his attorney Geoff Fieger yet ignores his own) and it's hard not to wish for a different ending than the one presented. But the film has to follow history. And this is what happened. Is the film bloated at 134 minutes? Not at all. Will it change your mind? Most likely not, but it doesn't want to. It simply wants to tell the story.
    Jason V Super Reviewer

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