Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown"Jackie Brown" was widely received as a disappointing follow-up to Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," but I think it's actually a better movie, if less obviously so. It's hard not to be blown away by "Fiction" because of it's sheer audacity; "Jackie Brown" is a quieter film that shows Tarantino has the potential to become a mature and sophisticated director.

It's somewhat ironic that Tarantino, associated with the young hipster audience, made this film, because at the basic level "Jackie Brown" is about getting old. All of Jackie's motivations spring from the fact that starting over will soon become impossible for her. That the options available to a a middle-aged, lower income level, black woman in modern America are severely limited. Tarantino shows an amazing prowess for getting into the head of this woman. His sensitive direction coupled with Pam Grier's top-notch performance combine to make Jackie one of the most compelling and honest female characters to hit the movie screen in recent years.

The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent too. Robert Forster stands out as bail bondsman Max Cherry, who becomes Jackie's partner in crime, as it were. Samuel L. Jackson does well with the kind of part he seems born to play, but his character is not as interesting as the others and so makes less of an impression. Bridget Fonda is a scene stealer as a California beach bunny, and the contrast between her and Pam Grier is used quite effectively.

It's interesting to note that in the book this movie was based on, "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard, Jackie was white. Changing the race of the title character to black adds a whole other dimension to the film that the book lacks. This is one case where the movie greatly improves on its source material.

"Jackie Brown" will take some commitment on behalf of the viewer. It's leisurely paced and more reliant on character study than Tarantino's other films, but these aren't detriments. They merely illustrate that Tarantino has some range as a director, and I hope he continues to explore that range.

I waited a long time to see "Jackie Brown", because I heard it wasn't any good, and I didn't want to tarnish the memory of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Pulp Fiction". Both those films were kinetic, profane, daring, and truly visceral experiences. I loved every minute of them. "Jackie Brown" is a horse of a different colour, however. It is low-key, thoughtful, tender, and assured. And, I must say, just as good.

One of the main criticisms leveled against it, that I've heard, is that it's too long and too slow. Well, compared to "Pulp Fiction", which is about the same length, of course you'd think it was too slow. But that's the way this story needs to be told, for one simple reason. "Pulp Fiction" was about young, experienced criminals, always on the go, always in control. They could afford to move quickly. "Jackie Brown"s criminals are a touch older. Jackie Brown and Bail Bondsman Max Cherry even have a conversation about what it means for men to get older (they lose their hair) verses what it means for women to get holder (their behinds get bigger). It's actually kind of a touching, and very odd, moment to have in the middle of what should be a zippy little heist flick.

Another way it differs from "Pulp" or "Dogs" (which would lead people to believe that it's sluggish) is the lack of gunplay. Tarantino's earlier films were defined by the style and abundance of their shootouts. "Jackie Brown" has only six gunshots. And all are essentially off-camera, or off in the distance, producing little or no blood. Now I'm not offended by violence in movies. Not at all. But it is kind of refreshing to see a director, especially one who's made his name off it, not rely on the showy exploitation of shooting someone. When he does show it, however, the torment and suffering and guilt of the shooter is always apparent.

Which brings me to the most intriguing thing about this movie. Tarantino, who the rap on in recent years has been that he's tormented by his early success and hasn't the confidence to make his next picture, actually shows a very assured hand in making this movie. Besides the above conversation between two aging characters, there are other places where he shows supreme confidence in his decisions. For instance, he's cast Robert DeNiro in his movie. Okay, a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Because he's cast DeNiro in a tiny, stoical role. Simultaneously, he's cast Robert Forster (I know he got an Oscar nod, but before that wasn't everyone asking "Robert who?") in a role that's very meaty, the tortured love-interest. A less-assured director would have switched the two actors, but Tarantino knows what he wants, and boy does he get it. DeNiro doesn't do more than he has to in creating his understated character. And Forster steals the show with his laid-back, relaxed, but always conflicted Bail Bondsman.

And Forster's scenes with Jackie Brown are touching, chemistry-filled, and a joy to watch. Credit in this case should go to Pam Grier, as Jackie Brown, another Tarantino casting coup. Grier is asked to be maturely sexy, street-smart, tough, and vulnerable all at once. And she pulls it off without flaw. I suspect that Tarantino has fantasized most of his life about casting Pam Grier in a movie, and would have done so even if the role didn't suit her so. But it does. It truly does. She carries the picture as not only the title character but also its emotional centre.

The rest of the cast is good in their own rights. Sam Jackson was born to speak Tarantino's dialogue, and doesn't disappoint. He makes Ordell a genuine badass, even through his ponytail and silly little beard (and Jackson, bless his heart, even throws in a nod to my home town basketball team, the Toronto Raptors). Bridget Fonda is actually quite sexy as a layabout surfer chick, whose big mouth is bound to get her into trouble. And Michael Keaton, who I've always thought of as a very underrated and interesting actor, plays his ATF agent with just enough faux-cool and indifference that you're always wondering if he's playing Jackie or if Jackie's playing him.

While talking about character, I'd like to give kudos to Quentin for a neat little-shorthand trick he uses to define them. Each character essentially has his/her own soundtrack. A scene near the end, which cuts between several different characters driving in their cars, shows this very well. Cut from Melanie's (Bridget Fonda) van, where faux-eighties punk is blaring, to Max Cherry's (Robert Forster) car, which features the laid back grooves of the Delfonics, to other characters and their distinctive musical tastes. The music shifts so suddenly sometimes that it can be jarring, but it's an effective technique. Furthermore on the music front, Tarantino liberally uses the Meters' "Cissy Strut" near the beginning of the film, which quickly brought a smile to my face, and let me know that funky good times were ahead.

"Jackie Brown" is a fine addition to Tarantino's oeuvre. Sure, his fingerprints are all over it in some cases, such as his distinctive use of language, and his fondness for shifting time back and forth upon itself to show the same scene from several different perspectives. But it's much more of a grown up movie. True, it's a tad too long. But just a tad. I can take excessive verbosity from Tarantino easier than I can from any other writer/director, because he's always fascinating, always moving, always trying to surprise, and always trying to tell a good story. "Jackie Brown" succeeds on all counts.

Buy Jackie Brown (1997) Now

Doug Thomas, your writing style is as tight-a**ed as your personality must be. Were you in a rush to splatter your half-witted thoughts on this movie because you had better things to do? Wow, even though your review is a pile of garbage, because you're a professional film critic, your smelling heap of empty-thoughted bullsh*t takes the privileged spot of primary review. Congratulations, your mom says she's proud.

Perhaps tea time prevented you form checking out the extras DVD included in the package... oh wait, you reviewed the VHS edition. Well, if you had done a lick of research, you'd've discovered that, *GASP*, Quentin grew up in black culture. Yeah, he had black friends and even went to schools populated heavily by black kids. And get this... you ready?... his mother dated... black guys! Now sit back, breathe in a bit, and utilize that liberal arts education I'm assuming you were at least exposed to, if not got a degree in: Artists like Quentin draw on their personal experiences in an effort to create an authentic piece of work. Heap on those pile of words.

How can a director be a lustful, minstrel-show-seeking culture-exploiter if he uses Bobby Womack, The Delfonics, Randy Crawford, Brothers Johnson, and Minnie Riperton in the score? Quentin didn't get any help with the script. That scene between Ordell and Beaumont on the balcony outside the latter's apartment was written by a white guy. Not even the most overzealous white-guy-wanting-desperately-more-than-anything-else-but-to-be-black could create something so sonically deft and authentic. A scene like that shows how Quentin is a respectful student of black culture, not some hand-wringing, cigar-smoking WASP wanting to take rap and use it in a Fruity Pebbles commercial at the height of RUN-DMC's success in the late 80s so he can sell more cereal for General Mills.

Music and dialogue carry this movie and are the two ingredients that make it such a pleasure to take in. The film's been described as "slow-moving," but people who say that don't realize that the pace is purposefully done slow so one can enjoy each characters' interactions. Sam Jackson's character, for as messed up as he is, is a piece of art. Charismatic dialogue. That's why I've watched the movie 3 times already, having seen it for the first time about a month ago.

If you're anything like this stiff critic whose review is posted at the top of this page (or the first page), you won't like this movie. However, if you're receptive of artful dialogue, non-predominently-white culture, and some awesome 70s soul/R&B music, this flick was made for you.

Read Best Reviews of Jackie Brown (1997) Here

Tarrantino showed his maturity in this film, assembling a very fine cast in a wry transformation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. Always one to have fun with 70's action films, Tarrantino's masterstroke was resurrecting Pam Grier in the title role. Grier, who made her career in such blaxploitation movies as Coffy and Foxy Brown, gives a star performance in this film. She is well balanced by Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell, a two-bit drug dealer, and Robert Forster, who turns in a remarkably understated performance as Max Cherry, a bail bondsman.

Tarrantino pretty much followed the 70's action film formula here, letting the movie build slowly and relying heavily on dialog to carry the action. Once again, he has underscored his film with a fine soundtrack, which even includes a track from the Brothers Johnson, Strawberry Letter 23, as Ordell does away with one of his runners. But those used to Tarrantino's high octane films may be disappointed with this one, but I found it to be a very enjoyable departure from his usual fare.

Want Jackie Brown (1997) Discount?

That is coming from someone who love anything this director makes, presents, or endorses. I think this is a very complex and satisfying film. Using the relatively unfilmed cities of LA, such as Hawthorne, Compton, the REAL Hollywood, it utilizes a more down to earth approach to real world crime. This isn't about a multimillion dollar heist, and the criminals are likeable and genuinely interesting even if one or two are full of themselves (Namely Ordell and Melanie.) The film opens with the classic Across 110th Street as sung by Bobby Womack and featuring a strong Pam Grier, walking that moving sidewalk at LAX. As the opening progresses she ends up possessing a look of worry on her face that shows a VERY strong woman's strength become vulnerablity. From then on we meet a handful of excentric baddies and law enforcers, that are all likeable, interesting and have at least one or two funny lines (with the exception of the cop who isn't Michael Keaton, who is just a plain jackass cowboy cop) My favorite part is the friendship/romance between Pam and the subtle and sensational Robert Forster. Starting with a very special ride home, which bleeds to a bar, and then to Griers Apartment. All involve rich dialogue and interest shown. They bond thru body language, their age, and eventually music("The Del----Fonics".) The fact that Forster rushes to the nearest record store for his first Delfonics Tape is just plain cute, and shows he is falling for her music and all. The Scenes between Grier and Sam Jackson also need recognition. They are at times funny, terrifying, and very well acted. There is also Robert DiNiro as an old friend/partner to Jackson, and a few girlfriends of ordell's such as Surfer Girl/PotHead Melanie, Old sex siren Simone, and Super Slow Country Girl Sheronda. There is just a bunch of rich characters here, and they all give great parts no matter how big or how small...especially Chris Tucker, who's performance as a snitch is equal parts brilliant and hilarious. This movie just hits a right note for anyone interested in a talky, rich picture. Tarantino says this is a movie for older people, well at 19, I'm definitely not younger, but this is my favorite of all tarantino films, be it because of the great soundtrack, storyline, performances, direction it makes no difference. It's my favorite period. Give it a chance and you'll see what I see...Great Movie!

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