Roger Ebert said in his review of 1973's “Day of the Jackal” that it was “put together like a fine watch”. Which is completely true. The problem is its more like we're watching a fine watch being built, with zero investment in either the assassin played by Edward Fox or the lead detective (Michel Lonsdale). It makes for a very truculent movie with an ending that has zero emotion to it...and is over crazy quick I might add, not that I cared either way.
So, you cant believe everything you read on Wikipedia. 1997's “The Jackal” borrows EXTENSIVELY from the original; The concept of a hired killer being contracted for a hit, his creation of a weapon for the job, a contact trying to extort money from him, the idea of an insider working with him on the good guys side, even the Jackal's unceremonious, unnamed burial at the end. They attempt to give us some character in this version though, by introducing a new element; Richard Gere's “Declan”, a convicted IRA terrorist who has a mysterious past with the Jackal. He's really the one who solves the whole movie. While I get why it suddenly becomes a Richard Gere movie (This comes smack in the middle of his “Pretty Woman” / “Runaway Bride” years), his “smartest guy in the room” act only makes the FBI, led by Sidney Poitier, look terribly inept.