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Many people were disappointed with 'Jackie Brown' when it was first released as it didn't live up to their expectations created by the more flamboyant 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction'. I admit that I was one of those disappointed fans. But as the years have gone by I have come to appreciate this movie more and more, and if you deal with what it IS and not what you thought it was going to be, you'll see that it is an underrated gem of a movie. 'Jackie Brown' is much more character driven and leisurely plotted than Tarantino's previous two movies. I haven't read the Elmore Leonard novel on which it was based so I can't tell whether this was a conscious decision by Tarantino himself, or it's because of the source material, but it might be a stumbling block for those with MTV-style attention spans. 1970s crime movie buffs will find it much easier going. The big names in the cast like De Niro, Jackson and Fonda are all very good, but the real standout performances in this movie are by 70s blaxploitation icon Pam Grier ('Coffy', 'Foxy Brown', 'Black Mama White Mama',etc.etc.) and a revelatory one from Robert Forster. Forster back in the day showed plenty of promise in movies like 'Medium Cool' but quickly found himself stuck in b-grade exploitation movies like 'Vigilante' and 'Alligator'. Fun stuff, but hardly Oscar material. Max Cherry is the best role he has ever been given, and he is superb in it. The fascinating thing about 'Jackie Brown' for me is that Tarantino's critics accuse him of making shallow and violent self-consciously hip crime films, but the central story of this movie concerns an inter-racial Middle Aged romance, something I haven't seen done in a believable or realistic fashion by Hollywood before. By doing this so well Tarantino shows he has much more depth, and is a much more interesting and braver film maker than his more acclaimed contemporaries. 'Jackie Brown' is a fine movie that hopefully one day will get the kudos it deserves. Don't overlook this one just because it isn't 'Pulp Fiction The Next Generation'!
Contrary to Pulp Fiction which had a very unusual editing and flashy situations, Jackie Brown focuses more on characters that are basically humans with very focused problems, for instance getting older which is an eminent theme tackled in the film. No one's evil in all this. They all have interestingly real personalities and I felt strangely comfortable watching them talk, eat, kill and argue with each other. Tarantino is an excellent storyteller and I wish I could write dialogues as interesting as his. The film flows with a slower pace than Pulp, with all it's many streched takes and lenghty scenes, but by doing so leaves us more time to grasp the characters with all their differences. A more mature Tarantino. Still loving what he does. And he said it himself before the film came out: "This one is at a lower volume then 'Pulp.' It's not an epic, it's not an opera. It's a character study."
Jackie Brown is a 44 year old air hostess who also acts as a money carrier
for her boss, gun dealer Ordell Robbie. When one of Ordell's other
employee's is caught he is forced to kill him, however, before he can get
him the employee tells the police about Jackie and they pick her up. With
Jackie facing jail or being killed by Ordell she strikes a deal with both
the police and him to bring in a large stash of money. However to help
retirement she plans to play the game to her own ends.
Coming as a follow up to both Dogs and Pulp, this film was going to be the `greatest movie ever made' or it was going to be met with a critical response that seems to be a bit negative. It was the hype and hyperbole around anything baring the name Tarantino that perhaps was giving every film he did higher and higher standards to meet, it is wasn't Jackie Brown that was met in this way it would have been the next film, or the next one. However the reviews were mostly good, but it did get some unfair reviews from critics who expected this to continue the upward trend. In a way I believe that this film did show Tarantino's growth as a director.
Where Pulp Fiction was dizzying in it's style and pace, Jackie Brown is much more of a mature, balanced film that is satisfying in a more traditional sense that the design of Pulp. Developed from a Leonard novel, the plot is a solid crime thriller with a good plot that still gives room for Tarantino to do some time shifting as he reveals some key scenes from different perspectives to allow us to see the bigger picture. As a story it fills the rather generous running time pretty well and is enjoyable throughout.
The film is still full of Tarantinoisms for the fans - the heavy soundtrack, the pop culture references, the witty, slick dialogue. However where the film stands out is that the characters are actually better than in his previous films where they never really went beyond the story and dialogue. Here not only are they better but they also include well-written female parts! While some of the characters are as good as they need to be within the confines of the basic crime story, it is in Jackie and Max where Tarantino has grown up a bit - although in fairness this was an adaptation rather than his own script, but he still manages them better than some of his own thin characters.
Following the praise for Pulp and Tarantino's ability to rejuvenate careers, he must have had no problem cherry picking for this role. Grier gives a great performance and should be grateful for the role in an industry that generally ignores middle-aged women (not to mention black women!). The only thing surprising about her is how poorly she has taken this big lead role and used it to take her career on. Her performance embraces her age and uses it well, but it is Forster who gives the standout performance here. Not an actor many will be aware of apart from this film, he got an Oscar nomination for this and I think he deserved it. His performance is very low-key and quite moving - I think I will appreciate his work here more as I get older. Jackson does what is expected of him and has no real character, but his energy and skill are there to see. De Niro plays a little against type and is an interesting, but underused character. Fonda is really, really sexy and has some good lines while the rest of the cast do good work in small roles with people like Keaton, Tucker and Bowen in there.
Overall I enjoy this film and can understand why it will never be loved to the extent that Pulp was and is. However to me this is a more satisfying film with an enjoyable plot and a more traditional delivery. The development of actual good characters beyond snappy dialogue is what impressed me the most and it sadden me to see him regress about a decade into style without substance with Kill Bill Vol. One.
Where does a director go after making two colossal worldwide hits?
"Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994) were two of the greatest movies ever made, and they launched director Quentin Tarantino into the realm of Mainstream Hollywood Director. Most of the time, a director faced with this reality will sink into a slew of really bad movies, but so far Tarantino has been either extremely lucky or extremely talented - his third feature film, although lacking in the brutality of its predecessors, contains just as much wit. Based upon the Elmore Leonard novel "Rum Punch," it's packed with the clever dialogue that Leonard is known for in his writing. It's also got a good amount of style, too. It's not a typical Tarantino movie, but is that necessarily a bad thing? In this particular instance, no.
Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight stewardess forced into running jobs for Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), a ruthless criminal who has no respect for life - or death, for that matter. However, during one of her smuggling efforts, a couple of FBI Agents (including Michael Keaton) nab her and offer her a deal: If she helps them get Ordell, she will be let free from custody. The Feds do not know who Ordell is, but they know he exists, and that is where Jackie comes in. She reluctantly agrees to participate in their sting operation, but all is not what it seems. And when $500,000 dollars disappears from his retirement fund, Ordell stops, thinks, and arrives upon the conclusion that we all anticipate with glee: Jackie Brown did it.
His partner in crime, Louis (the wonderful Robert De Niro), also decides to double-cross Ordell, with the help of a sexy blonde ditz named Melanie (Bridget Fonda), The movie's twisting plot line and intersecting story lines is very reminiscent of "Pulp Fiction," and De Niro's underrated performance is a real stand-out. The movie's quite well made and enjoyable.
Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. This is no "Reservoir Dogs," nor does it want to be. It's not in the same vein as Tarantino's other movies, at least not at a superficial level. However, it is extremely entertaining, helped along by a great cast and a terrific script. The only difference here is that Tarantino did not come up with everything by himself. He adapted the screenplay from another source, something he usually doesn't do. But there's also a little-known fact that Roger Avary co-wrote some of "Dogs" and "Fiction" with Tarantino, as well as sparked the idea for some of his films. Here, Quentin adapts Leonard's novel and does justice. People who say it isn't as good as his other movies because it's recycled obviously don't know what they're talking about.
Tarantino started out as a video store clerk, and is the movie buff's filmmaker. Not only does Tarantino share a deep passion for films, but he also knows what most of the real movie enthusiasts want. He has yet to disappoint me with any of his directorial efforts. His own life story would make an interesting movie, and indeed it did with "True Romance," partially based on Tarantino's own self-image of himself. (A geek working at a comic book store falls in love and goes off of an adventure into a new realm -- in Tarantino's own case, it was film-making. For Clarence, from "True Romance," it was drugs and murder.)
Tarantino has a flair for raw energy in all of his films, and "Jackie Brown" is no exception. The movie is bursting at its edges, packed with wild antics and the occasional fierce brutality. The movie was criticized by Tarantino's die-hard fans for being too different from his other films. However, the mistake of many directors is to repeat the same formulas over and over again. One must at least give Tarantino credit for trying new things in each of his films. If anything, the only thing that Tarantino likes to insert into all his films is a large source of energy. And is that a bad thing?
Although different than some of Tarantino's more violent precursors, such as "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" and "True Romance" this is an excellent film. Where it lacks in violence however, the film makes up for in language earning it an "R" rating in the US. In certain scenes, I thought it Tarantino went to far with the explicit language and it seemed awkward and artificial, but that does not cast a shadow of over what I thought was an otherwise fantastic film. The editing and directing is excellent. There is good character development of the main characters, yet there is not one scene where the movie drags throughout its entire 150 minutes. I couldn't tear myself away from this movie until the very end.
Especially enjoyable is the performance by Robert Forster whose character I thought was outstanding. Max Cherry, played by Forster, is a tempered bail bondsman who cautiously handles his unscrupulous clients. One day he is approached by Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson, to post a bond for Jackie Brown, a middle aged flight attendant for a low cost airline who gets caught smuggling Ordell's fortune in Mexico into the US. The initial meeting between Jackie and Max sets up a relationship between these two characters on both professional and personal level and that changes Max from a methodical and business man to almost an innocent young boy with a crush. The last scene in the movie between these two characters is absolutely brilliant.
I highly recommend this film and it's fun to watch Tarantino mature as a director. The little extras littered throughout the film such as "Chick with Guns", the fabulous locations such as the Cockatoo Inn, and the excellent characters make this film well worth a view.
Being a huge fan of Tarantinos earlier efforts Reservoir Dogs and Pulp
Fiction expectations were of course high. Especially since Jackie Brown
is based on the Elmore Leonard novel "Rum Punch". And Elmore Leonards
stories usually fit the big screen very well, they are actually one of
the rare occasions where i usually prefer the film to the novel.
Tarantino sets a different mood here compared to the more frantic and violent Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. This is more of a slow crime story that focuses more on being cool than being shocking. I think this movie works very well despite the slow pace which seems to put a lot of people off. Mainly i think it works because the actors are all giving it their best (the casting is also excellent) while Tarantino seems to handle the whole story more gently than in Pulp Fiction. He doesn't stress it, he doesn't run the risk of over-doing the "cool" parts. The end result is enjoyable but a lot more somber than what you're used to from Tarantino.
All in all i feel this movie is underrated. It's enjoyable, well made and stylish. Recommended to those not demanding all movies to head on at breakneck speed. I rate it 7/10.
When I first heard the name of Q's next movie, Jackie Brown, I figured this would be a remake of a 70's Pam Grier blaxploitation flick (i.e- Foxy Brown). I quickly learned that this was actually an ode to the legendary Pam Grier! Loaded with possibly the best and deepest cast since True Romance, and very similar in many ways, this movie delivers on all levels. Like T.R., a combination of road trip movie (this time airborne), gangsters, comedy, druggy/pimp story, and love story molds itself into a great story. A fantastic revival for Robert Forster- who'd never been awarded the shot he deserved, as Max Cherry, our star and hero of this film. Robert's been historically type cast as a gumshoe cop in numerous roles- Mulholland Drive, South Beach, Rear Window, Me, Myself Irene, but really breaks out in this opportunity to portray a character with actual personality,integrity, wit, and passions. Hail to Robert! Fantastic deliveries from Michael Keaton who revives the Ray Nicolette character seen in Out of Sight, Bridget Fonda's transformation as the stoner surfer girl, DeNiro as the shifty ex-con, Samuel J as the untrustworthy Ordell, and most impressively the one scene delivery of Chris Tucker- with the famous improvised line 'You sneak up on a Nigga with this sh#t!'... The screen translation of Elmore Leonard's Florida based Rum Punch is very interesting- from the blonde bimboish Jackie Burke, to the sexy 40ish black Jackie Brown, worked very nicely. Q hits another home run, as expected!
Quentin Tarantino is clearly finding it difficult to follow the phenomenal
success of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction", which made him the hottest
writer-director of his generation. In the six years since then this is the
only time that he has returned to the directors chair. "Jackie Brown" -
his "difficult third film" - seems to be his response to criticism of his first
two films that he could only make movies about other movies, but not real
life. He cleverly anticipates the backlash by adapting a tightly plotted,
character driven Elmore Leonard novel, still set in his familiar world of
LA low-lives, but keeping to a minimum his trademark comic-book violence and
pop-culture references, while emphasising the novels more mature themes -
such as ageing and the feeling of time running out for the middle-aged
characters. The result is a slick, interesting, if slightly draggy
thriller, which ultimately lacks the freshness and audaciousness of those
Tarantino still has his maverick streak though, as displayed in his trusting of Pam Grier to carry the entire movie. The casting of a middle-aged black actress with no box-office clout in the lead role can't have been easy in an industry notorious for it's scant regard for actresses after they reach 30. You can bet that the studios would have at least insisted on the safety of a Sharon Stone or a Demi Moore. But Tarantino, as he did when casting Travolta, stuck to his gut-instinct, and once again it proved an inspired choice. Grier, bringing with her the memories of her 70's blackploitation movies, gives a convincingly tough, wise and sympathetic performance.
Actors love to work with Tarantino because the roles he gives them will be invariably jucier than usual. That is once again the case here, although the casting isn't quite as inspired as it was in "Dogs" or "Pulp" (or "True Romance"). Samuel L. Jackson is reliably good - if hardly stretched - as an unscrupulous hustler who is not as smart as he thinks he is, and Bridget Fonda has fun as his conniving beach babe girlfriend. Robert Forster jumps at the chance to play a role with depth after years in made-for-tv hell. Robert De Niro though, despite providing some amusing moments, is disappointingly wasted as Jackson's dim-witted partner.
At times this feels like just another thriller, but every now and then Tarantino reminds you what all the fuss was about. Jackson's brutal (off-screen) dispatching of Chris Tucker in the boot of a car, as the camera slowly cranes up into the sky, is masterfully conceived and a scene, which is subtly built up to, involving a teasing Fonda and a p*****-off De Niro is as unexpected and as shocking as anything Tarantino has done before. By refusing to make a Pulp Fiction 2, Tarantino may have missed out on some easy money, but this film has enough to suggest that he will be more than just a flash in the pan.
Quentin Tarantino follow up to the hysterical response generated by his suitably hysterical first two movies was 'Jackie Brown', an altogether more restrained film that garnered a somewhat more restrained set of reviews. Perhaps the relative lack of impact made by this film explains his subsequent return to extremes with 'Kill Bill'. But in some ways this is a shame, as there's a lot to enjoy in 'Jackie Brown', particularly in the universally first rate performances the director manages to get out of his distinguished cast. Robert Forster is wise and weary as a middle-aged bail bondsman, Samuel L. Jackson plays a criminal with all of the menace and none of the charm of his character in 'Pulp Fiction', while Bridget Fonda and a (cast against type) Robert de Niro are entertaining as a pair of useless crack-heads. Best of all is former blaxploitation star Pam Grier in the title role, combining human warmth and coolness under fire with considerable charm. The generic Ellmore Leanard plot is ultimately not quite as clever as it promises to be, and as as ever with Tarantino, both tone and taste are sometimes questionable: the early sequence 'Women Who Love Guns' is very funny, but it's quite unclear whether it's intended as satire or celebration. Nonetheless, once one adds in a typically splendid soundtrack, everything adds up to a movie far above the average crime thriller, and for all the breathtaking invention of his other movies, it's enough to make one wish that Tarantino didn't usually feel the need to try so very hard.
JACKIE BROWN (1997) ***1/2 Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Tiny Lister. A marriage made in heaven: Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino. Excellent adaptation of Leonard's `Rum Punch' with Grier cast as the eponumous character, an airline stewardess caught between a rock and a hard place when she's pinched for drug possession after a cash pick up for arms dealer Jackson. Double crosses aplenty - both the rich characterizations and screenplay crackles with equally good acting particularly 70s survivors Grier and Forster (Best Supporting Actor nominee) the latter the epitome of understated acting. Great fun and leisurely paced to the twisting uncompromising climax. De Niro getting baked on weed with Fonda is one for the film vault.
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