Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Jackie Brown

Year: 1997
Running time: 154 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Michael Bowen, Chris Tucker, Hattie Winston, LisaGay Hamilton, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister

Jackie Brown: down on her luck, but still formidable.
It seems that for a lot of people Jackie Brown is the duffer in Tarantino's body of work so far. The problem was it followed Pulp Fiction, an astonishing powerhouse of a movie, and people were expecting much the same, or at least something similar. What they got was something very different. This is a slow burning film by comparison, taking time to set up all the characters (with the exception of Jackie herself (Pam Grier), who arrives onscreen fully formed and cool as fuck to the sound of Bobby Womack's Across 110th Street in one of cinema's most criminally under-rated character intros) and getting itself into a very convoluted plotline (of course, anyone familiar with Elmore Leonard's novel, Rum Punch, on which this is based, would've had a clearer idea of what to expect). When people were waiting for more of the razor sharp dialogue that Tarantino writes so well, the characters began talking about what it’s like to get older and had conversations about The Delfonics.

I make a point of trying never to go in with any expectations of what a film should be, and in this case I think it paid off. While my friends complained about the lack of, for want of a better word, Pulp Fiction-ness, I was intrigued by the characters and hooked on the plot. The story revolves around six people, half a million dollars and everyone trying to double cross each other to get their hands on it. Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) is the biggest gangster-fish in his particular little pond. He's got some money to smuggle in from some arms deals he's pulled off and he needs someone to bring in the cash. A large part of the first act is spent showing just what kind of a person Robbie is, bailing out one Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker), only to elaborately plan and execute Beaumont's murder to prevent him from talking to the police when he inevitably goes back to prison. Associates of Robbie include Louis Gara (Robert De Niro), a bank robber recently out of prison and Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda), in the words of Robbie "...one of the bitches I got set up" who is very happy to spend her time getting high and watching TV, until the opportunity to relieve Ordell of his ill-gotten gains presents itself.

Ordell talks guns with his non-too-bright henchman Louis.
Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is an ageing bail bondsman employed by Robbie to bail out first Beaumont and then Jackie after she is arrested when caught smuggling cocaine and cash in for Ordell to supplement her meagre wage. Cherry is very taken with Jackie and, against his better judgement, agrees to help Jackie swipe Ordell's cash. Watching over everything are Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton), a confident ATF agent and Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen), of the LAPD who arrested Jackie in the first place and have agreed to let her go in exchange for co-operation in catching Ordell. Everything hinges on this half a million dollars and which character will finally end up with it after the dust clears.

Similar plot lines have been done to death, but this still sparkles, thanks largely to three things; the outstanding source material, Tarantino's superb adaptation and direction, and the excellent cast - not one of them puts in anything less than a thoroughly great performance (Grier outshines them all, and out of the support, my favourite is the brilliant Michael Keaton - Nicolette also appears in Out of Sight, another Elmore Leonard adaptation that made its way to screens the following year). As with every Tarantino movie, music plays a huge role, and the records on offer here are just as inspired as any of his films; as well as the aforementioned Bobby Womack and Delfonics, the soundtrack includes the likes of Johnny Cash and Bill Withers, amongst others.

So, Jackie Brown, far from being a duffer, is one of the crown jewels in the collection of a man who, so far, has made nothing but crown jewels.

Score: 8/10

Other reviews for Jackie Brown are largely gushing, like this one of Roger Ebert's, but there are some people who appear to have watching a different film entirely, like Janet at the New York Times.