- Quentin Tarantino
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, February 01, 2007
If anyone knows better, I’d love to be corrected, but my guess is Tarantino worked Jackie Brown without worrying that Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction, his two previous films, were so praised for their originality. This time, he wanted to do a caper film and do it his way, and just have a good time with it. Though so many fans were disappointed, and despite its not being close to his two previous films, the fact is, the movie is not at all bad.
Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch”, Jackie Brown tells the story of a flight attendant (the title character, played by Pam Grier) getting caught for transporting drugs and money into the United States. She works for gun dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), which Federal officer Ray Nicolet (Michael Keaton) knows very well. She doesn’t confess though, but Robbie fears she will, and Nicolet won’t stop until he gets his man, so Jackie’s position is difficult to say the least.
Hardly willing to bite the bullet however, Jackie plays it against the cops and Robbie, in a game of double-crosses and triple-crosses, with only one real aide: Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a bail bondsman that crosses her path and falls hopelessly in love with her. Jackie hopes to stay on everyone’s good side, out of jail, and even make some extra money (and a lot of it at that).
On Robbie’s side, there’s Louis Gara (Robert De Niro), a grungy and quiet outlaw, and Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda), an oversexed junkie. Things start falling apart for “cool” Robbie after two of his people are imprisoned, Beaumont (Chris Tucker) and Jackie, and seeing him lose control gradually is as entertaining as seeing Jackie play her game.
If Jackie Brown has a flaw, it’s not that the movie isn’t as innovative as Tarantino’s previous ones, but rather that it isn’t as energetic. It’s deliberately paced, as the director takes his time to develop every stage of his show before he moves on to the next one. This would work better perhaps if Tarantino wasn’t so insistent in sneaking in his trademark touches, like Melanie’s bare feet, Beaumont’s reluctance to get into Robbie’s trunk (which gives place to a camera shot from inside), and a discussion between Robbie and Louis towards the end, after the latter has done something really stupid (which reminds us of the funniest conversations between Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction). These are flaws not because they aren’t welcome elements, but because they keep reminding us that this is a Tarantino film, and at that, there are many things it lacks.
But as I said, it’s not a bad film at all. It’s stylishly directed, flawlessly edited (by Sally Menke), and very well cast. Despite Jackie being a white woman in the novel, Tarantino chose to revive 70s Blaxploitation star Grier, and she does a good job. This gives way to plenty of 70s songs, including one sung by Grier herself, but most notably The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time”. The film is savory in this way among others, and that’s because the director insists on making his films stylish, which he knows how to do very well.
But going back to the cast, Jackson is pretty good, though his performance again reminds us of Pulp Fiction, which turns us down as Robbie is not half as charismatic as Jules Winnfield. De Niro is the biggest name in the cast, but his low-key character doesn’t require much from him. It is perhaps Forster who surprises the most, in a quiet and very sympathetic performance.
The segment that easily becomes the best remembered is one where the same scene is played from three different perspectives. It’s not exactly Rashomon (1950), since here we get the real events every time, but it’s pretty good at completing the same scenario with more interesting facts. For a minute there I got very excited, but it was too late to call the film exciting in all, and the last few minutes turned me down again. Good thing there were so many elements all around to make up for the lulls at every turn.
“I’m serious as a heart attack.”
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