Jackie Brown Reviews
In trying to make ends meet, middle-aged air hostess, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is also a courier for local gun-smuggler Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) but when federal agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and LA cop Mark Dargas (Michael Bowen) get wind of her plans she faces time in jail. With the help of bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), Jackie hatches a scam to play the police and her boss off one another.
As a big fan of crime writer Elmore Leonard and, in particular, his novel "Rum Punch" (upon which this is an adaptation), I was admittedly left with feelings of disappointment when I first seen "Jackie Brown". I was unimpressed and even entertained the thought that Tarantino‚(TM)s critics may well have been right. Upon repeat viewings though, it becomes apparent just how good a film it really is. For the most part, Tarantino resists the temptation of his usual pop-cultural references or the gratuitous violence that his name had become synonymous with. Instead, he opts for a more subtle and leisurely approach and in doing so, allows his actors the space to develop their characters and the drama to unfold at it‚(TM)s own pace. Again it could also be said that Tarantino pays yet more homage to films of the past. He changed the ethnicity of the lead female character in Leonard's novel from the white Jackie Burke to a black Jackie Brown which allowed him to cast Pam Grier and reference her blaxploitation films "Foxy Brown" and "Coffy" as well as, employing the use of Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street". In no way is this a blaxploitation film. It's much broader than that but certainly has some hallmarks from that particular sub-genre.
As for Grier, herself, it's a bold move by Tarantino to cast her in the lead and essentially structure the film around her. Many have applauded this casting choice (I mean, let's face it, Tarantino rarely gets it wrong and has resurrected a few careers in his day) but I think I'm one of the few who actually thinks that Grier's performance is a little stretched at times. With the abundance of talent around her, she seems to play her hand a little too forcefully and has a tendency to overact. That being said, it would be hard not to play it this way when the company she's keeping are as strong as they are: Tarantino's go-to man for dialogue delivery Samuel L. Jackson echoes Pulp's Jules Winnfield only this time his gun-running Ordell Robbie has less biblical monologues and more of a dangerous cutting edge; Bridget Fonda plays his vacuous beach blonde accomplice to perfection while Michael Keaton's doggedly determined ATF agent Ray Nicolette has the requisite cocksure arrogance. The biggest revelation, though, is Robert Forster's Oscar nominated turn as bale bondsman Max Cherry. Forster achieved some acclaimed film and television performances throughout the 1960's and 70's but eventually fell into obscurity before Tarantino revived his career with this role. On this evidence it's hard to see why Robert Forster disappeared for so long. His work here is a nuanced and very subtle piece of work - which brings me to the other Robert.
Most of you will be aware of my fondness for all all things DeNiro but his work here is one of his most under-appreciated. While everyone around him sink their teeth into there colourful characters, his stoned ex-convict Louis Gara is left to sit in the background with very little to say or do. Leave it to DeNiro then to bring this character to life; his glazed look and awkward social communication is pitched so well that it's hard to take your eyes off him. When he is given something to do, though, DeNiro brings this subdued characters volatility to the surface with dangerous and convincing results. Rarely have I seen him steal so many scenes by practically doing nothing and even though he's seriously under-utilised, this is one of my favourite performances of his.
Not as well received on its release as the exceptional Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction but over the years this has gradually gained the respect that it deserves and stands as one of Tarantino's finest and most mature outings.
What we have here is a middle-aged flight attendant who gets caught up in a smuggling scheme with a slimy gun runner who finds herself caught between him and the law, with an important choice to make.
Tarantino and the cast handle the material quite well and make it their own. One could start to call this movie Tarantino's homage to Blaxploitation, and while I can't completely deny that, I must say that it is only Blaxploitation in spirit. It's actually a romance of sorts disguised as a crime epic, and the way I see it, there isn't a damn thing wrong with that.
Pam Grier had a career renaissance here, and she does wonderfully. Robert Forster is also quite good, as is Sam Jackson, but I've always gotten the most enjoyment from Bridget Fonda's stoned beach bunny and a very low key Rober t De Niro as the wayward ex-con trying to get back into society.
The needle drops are wonderful as you'd expect, the cinematography is likewise top notch, and the film earns its lengthy running time by having interesting and well developed characters that we grow to care about.
This might be slightly lesser Tarantino, but it's still a brilliant film nonetheless. Definitely check it out, as it's a shame it's become one of his more underrated and under appreciated works.
Although different than some of Tarantino's more violent precursors, such as "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" and "True Romance" this is an excellent film. The editing and directing is great.
Jackie Brown is the name of a flight attendant who gets caught smuggling her boss' gun money on the airline she works for. Luckily for her, the Fed Ray Nicolet and the LA Cop Mark Dargus decide to team up in order to arrest the arms dealer she works for, whose name they don't even know. Here's when she has to choose one way: tell Nicolet and Dargus about Ordell Robbie (the arms dealer) and get her freedom -except that if Ordell suspects you're talking about him, you're dead- or keep her mouth shut and do some time. That's when she meets Max Cherry -her bail bondsman-, a late fifties, recently separated, burnt-out man, who falls in love with her. Then Jackie comes up with a plan to play the Feds off against Ordell and the guys he works with -Louis Gara and Melanie Ralston, among others- and walk off with their money. But she needs Max's help. No one is going to stand in the way of his million dollar payoff...
As Tarantino's usual suspects re-assemble, we are told a tale of drug smuggling, guns and lots of cash as we mix with both criminals and the cops. The synopsis itself is not important, as the story unfolds beautifully with a little bit of romance sprinkled on top of a lot of suspense,
The problem with Tarantino's lesser known films is the fact that they are immediately compared to one of his always known masterpieces, rather than being compared to the average film. Reviewing "Jackie Brown" on an average film basis, you get the product of excellent direction, almost all good acting, an intriguing storyline, and an all over enjoyable film.
Samuel L Jackson heads up the team of actors, creating a typical Jackson Tarantino performance, but as always entertaining, and also creating a very believable and scary character, who scares his audience but also creates the character of Ordell into someone the audience like and enjoy being with on the screen, despite the fact they hate the fact they do.
Pam Grier serves up an excellent performance as the title character, who plays an excellent strong female character, who lead the film beautifully. Alongside her, we have Robert Forster, who serves up the best performance of his career. Although his character is possibly the most moderate, sensible and likeable person of any Tarantino, he makes a nice change to the other criminals who dominate the screen. Forster also empowers the traditional good of the screen where the police officers, played by Michael Keaton and others, fail.
But the best performance of the film comes from Robert De Niro. De Niro, leading the audience on throughout 90% of the film as one type of person, shocks and pleasantly surprises everyone with his small, but excellent performance.
The cinematography is nothing special, but what really dominates the film, is the ability of Tarantino to tell a fascinating story, and un-wide it, inciting the audience with every new move. "Jackie Brown" is an excellent film. The reason it is passed over as something less than it is, is because of the historical achievements of Tarantino, just even after 5 years of filmmaking.
But "Brown" is an excellent film, and one which should have a place in every film enthusiast's collection. Although it is perhaps too full of story lines, twist, sub-twists, and more, "Jackie Brown" is a great film by Tarantino standards, and a fantastic one by others.