Jackie Brown (1997)

jackiebrown_1997_poster
Jackie Brown (1997)
  • Time: 154 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker

Storyline:

44 year old flight attendant Jackie Brown gets caught with gun dealer Ordell Robbie’s money and to get the ATF off her back she sets up Ordell with her new friend, a bail bondsman named Max Cherry. But what the ATF doesn’t know, is that they are part of her wild plan to get Ordell’s half million dollars and get off scott free. However, she has to do it under the noses of both Ordell, the ATF man and a local cop. What she doesn’t know is Ordell’s blonde beach bunny wants the money for herself as does Ordell’s ex-con friend.

2 reviews

  • I was really pleasantly surprised by this Tarantino crime drama. Thinking back to the days of its original release, I don’t remember much enthusiasm for this film. Yet, having watched it for the first time last night, I thought it was fantastic! It contained many of those retro Tarantino tricks that I love – the ’70’s soundtrack; the unexpected cuts and fades; the tricks with the time-line. The characters were fantastically portrayed for the most part – Samuel L. Jackson is a genius in this film as is DeNiro in his very understated role. In fact, this DeNiro character is unlike most others I can think of and in that sense, is sort of a relief. And Robert Forster captures the essence of Max the bail bondsman perfectly. This film lacks some of the wild pace and excessive violence of other Tarantino films. I find that a bit of a relief, too. The plot twists are interesting and bottom line is – this movie is a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

  • I never quite got Jackie Brown – I’ve heard commentators state it is, perhaps, Tarantino’s best movie:

    “It addresses (racial) issues (his) other movies don’t.”
    Or
    “…(its)…juxtapositional elegance of black and white leads us to consider society and its flaws.”

    I, on the other hand, can remember nothing about it from one viewing to the next ( I feel sic). I must have seen it 5 or 6 times and yet ask me a month later what I remember and all I can come up with is the movie’s opening travellator scene.
    Same thing happened this time. I lifted the DVD out of “The Random Box of Strange” and I felt underwhelmed. Walking across the room, I used my (special) velvet pad and lightly wiped the dust away. I blew on the needle, and slipped the disc in.
    …Opening travellator scene…
    A Black woman in profile, and in uniform, sliding past a bright-blue tiled wall. Wobbling slightly as the moving walkway lifts over its supports. Her face on the other hand remains unmoving.
    She’s a middle-aged woman in a neat 60s-style air-hostess uniform.

    And Jackie Brown is flying in from Mexico with Ordell’s drug money.
    And two self-opinionated detective types use Jackie Brown to try and trap Ordell.
    And Ordell is Samuel L Jackson in jive mode. And he is a much taller and prettier version of Huggy Bear out of Starsky and Hutch 1975-79.
    Ordell is a gun-dealer with a drawer full of Backward-Kangols, and he has the weirdest way of walking… It’s like his ankles are tied together and his hands tucked into his belt: He wheedles his way down the hall – weaving his hips in a skewed circular motion.
    Hmmmm. Note to self: Have to watch Starsky and Hutch again soon.

    And Ordell has a house guest and a girl. The guest is a recently released bank-robber called Lewis. Lewis grunts and sweats and shags the girl.

    And Max Cherry, a bail-bondsman, gets involved. And so completes the triangle – Ordell, Jackie Brown and himself.
    And Max Cherry has sharp hair that belongs on someone 15 years younger. He has wrinkles, and an Oldsmobile.

    And there are some shenanigans, and characters get taken advantage of by each other.

    And I am beginning to understand why I never remember this movie. I recollect just why I have no affiliation with Jackie Brown or her doings:
    I realise that there are 3 things wrong:-

    1. The acting is stultifying. It has no life. No energy or spark.
    Jackie Brown’s face doesn’t move a muscle on the travellator. It is like rock. Am I to invent an inner discourse for her?
    Max Cherry – the same. The skin around his eyes, like the scrunched foil from a Hershey-Bar, is set and solid. His movements smoothly automatic. No risk of improvisation or surprise from this actor.
    I don’t learn anything about either character. At any point…
    He’s old and professionally tired. She’s old and black. And she’s the lead.
    Which is probably why ‘people’ like this movie – because it flirts with breaking traditional role models:
    Old black woman is the lead in a movie? Wow!

    2. Where’s the dialogue? The main characters deliver their lines. They move from this room to that room, and say something: About the room they came from, or the room they’re going to.
    They say sentences to each other, and respond with more sentences.
    Dull dull dull.
    Surely when Tarantino first considered this movie, he realised it was going to be a black-movie – his great opportunity to create jive-talk – Tarantinoesque.
    But Tarantino obviously has no ‘black’. He’s from the white & white-collar end of LA.
    I remember the ‘white’ dialogue in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs as sublime. It rattles and it shakes. It accelerates fast and bouncy; it can be slow and tortured.
    But his black-thang is thin:
    A script-writer can only write nigger 3-4 times before it begins to grate. Surely there is more to ‘black culture’ than slippy-slidey hipster.
    Samuel T Jackson agrees that Tarantino’s cardboard dialogue is a desert of wind-blown fumble-weed. He decides to create character ‘through physical movement’, That ridiculous walk. Even if it does make him look like a clockwork doll with a shoe on backwards.

    3. But I think my greatest problem is that I don’t like any of the characters. I can’t like Jackie Brown because I don’t know her. The narrative doesn’t allow me an insight into her feelings or motivation.
    I am not allowed to generate any of those statements that help get me through difficult plot twists. Like:
    “I guess if I were in her position – no money, career-ending job, desperate – then I would consider that too…”
    Or
    ” I could see this coming – she was lonely, bored and fearful – it was inevitable she’d end up with…”
    But Tarantino gave me no back-story. Not even a hint. And.
    My ambivalence is not helped by her wooden acting.
    I don’t like Max Cherry either. I have no idea at all what’s going on there…
    Yet somehow, they fall in love. Or do they? I don’t know. It’s all very unconvincing.
    And I don’t like Ordell. Or his girl-friend. One is a 2D stereotype. The other is a 2D stereotype, but white.
    I don’t like Lewis – an empty hulk of a man with no imagination.

    4. Ooo. There is one character I like. Michael Keaton plays one of the detective-types. And he is all-over his character. Like Samuel P Jackson, he’s developed a dialogue-get-around: But unlike Jackson, Keaton lives his persona. He moves with the energy of a crazy thing. Like an 8-string puppet with two missing. He bounces backwards; spins around; and leans forward – into the camera – like Heath Ledger’s Joker in Batman. His eyes pop, but he feigns boredom… But know he is thinking:
    ‘drive pencil into eye-socket’.
    And like the Joker, I get a sense of danger – a psychopathic under-current. Which makes me smile. And also makes me realize what a great actor Keaton is.

    5. So. What else is Tarantino known for?
    His soundtracks.
    And Jackie Brown is a ‘black’ movie.
    And Tarantino gives me Motown. And soft soul. A little bit of Funk. Black music…
    Really? Where’s the imagination? The sublime counterpoints so evident in his earlier films?

    And Jackie Brown is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s ‘Rum Punch’.
    What a writer. His stories… Fabulous bubbling streams of narrative imagination.
    They have pace.
    They have alluring and sexy women.
    They have knowing-chisel-jawed men who get their man – eventually.
    Elmore Leonard writes an odd form of seventies dialogue which belongs only in Los Angeles. More specifically – in a seedy quarter of LA where the swimming pools are dry and frog-filled, and the T-shirts look backwards.
    Where cigarette smoke is the air, and whiskey, the water.
    And Tarantino missed all of it:
    He missed the characterizations. The speech. The blanched-look of over-exposed film stock. The creaking chrome and brown Cadillacs with tail-wings.
    Tarantino failed to feel Elmore Leonard’s narrative and so had no feeling to inject into Jackie Brown.
    What a shame…

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