108 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2001
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.
196 of 213 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2003
"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.
38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 1999
First off: "Jackie Brown" is not a disappointment. After the surprise success of Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, everyone was looking for him to fail on his next attempt. Sorry, friends, but this just isn't the case. In many ways, "Jackie Brown" is a more enjoyable ride. After repeated viewings of "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs," one can easily pinpoint the weaknesses in Tarantino's style. He uses similar references to '70s action and blaxploitation films, he uses relic music hits from the same era, and he even uses similar character names (Marvin with no ear, meet Marvin with no head). The violence is always there, and the incessant use of profanity is always there. But "Jackie Brown" is different from these previous efforts. There's no appearances by either Harvey Keitel or Tim Roth; instead, the film is headlined by the queen of the '70s blaxploitation flicks, the eternally sexy Pam Grier. The supporting cast includes Robert Forster, a staple of cheesy B-movies, Samuel L. Jackson in a return to the world of Tarantino, and the very interesting threesome of Michael Keaton, Bridget Fonda, and the ever-versatile De Niro to round out the cast. So what, besides the cast, makes the film such a knockout? While the profanity level has been toned down, Tarantino's script loses no edge and maintains a constant freshness and sense of humor. Grier has never been much of an actress, but she's always had a certain charm, and she uses this charm effectively in "Jackie Brown." Forster gives his most memorable performance here, playing the role of Max Cherry with complete control and positive cool. Fonda is great as Melanie, and Keaton has a blast playing ATF agent Ray Nicolet, but De Niro steals the show as Louis Gara. De Niro has one of his better supporting roles here, and he makes the most of it. Louis is something of a dimwit, but only De Niro could inject the character with as much humor as he has here. The film, at 154m, is probably too long and overindulgent, but Tarantino presents us with an interesting plot, and some equally interesting subplots to boot. The most effective of these is the relationship that builds between Grier and Forster; there is an attraction there, but the insecurities of each character prevents this from ever reaching a climax. The film is colorful, has solid (but not brilliant) direction, and, aside from some serious lapses in logic, the script flows seamlessly. And guess what? There's no guest appearance by the man himself, who must have realized after "From Dusk Till Dawn" that, while he may be a writer and a director, and actor he is not. "Jackie Brown" reveals the limitations of Quentin Tarantino, but the film is still a riot, and one of the most entertaining of 1997. That's more than I can say for James Cameron's "Titanic," which fails on all levels for me, despite what the critics say. "Jackie Brown" delivers a knockout punch. It's great to see that some Elmore Leonard novels are finally getting the big-screen treatments that they deserve.
27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
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.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2005
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2012
Let me begin by saying that, in my opinion, "Jackie Brown" was one of the top films of 1997. It was a tough year, though, with "Titanic" winning 11 awards, and the likes of "Good Will Hunting", "As Good as it Gets", "Amistad", "Boogie Nights", and "L.A. Confidential" scooping up the rest. Pam Grier should have won Best Actress, hands down. She didn't. She wasn't even nominated (Helen Hunt won in "As Good as it Gets"). The only nomination "Jackie Brown" got was a well-deserved one for Robert Forster as Best Supporting Actor (as bail/bondsman Max Cherry, in a performance that revitalized his career, as I predict Albert Brooks will benefit from his excellent work in "Drive" last year). But, I digress...
Quentin Tarantino borrowed his story from Elmore Leonard's "Rum Punch", and crafted a screenplay that is well-timed, taut, often surprising, and even sweet at times. The hip, fast-paced dialogue that has become a Tarantino trademark decorates every scene. But, I suspect quite intentionally, Tarantino designed "Jackie Brown" as a golden, fleur-de-lis-trimmed letterbox for Pam Grier to turn the title character into one of the most memorable in the last quarter-century. And, that's exactly what she did.
Bridget Fonda is so absolutely perfect as gun-runner Samuel L. Jackson's sassy "surfer chick" that you are convinced that this is who Bridget Fonda really is. Robert DeNiro was given a long leash in his portrayal of a dim-witted, recently-paroled bank robber (not exactly a typecast for him)...and he nails it. And the other characters that spice up the plot are all well-formed and well-acted. But it's the improbable relationship between Jackie and Max that grabs you and won't let you go. Like a swirling, cool, evening fog by the waterfront on a steamy, summer evening, it is hard to define and even harder to grasp, but you know you like it. If you're not a Delfonics ([...]) fan by the end of the film...well, I don't see how you couldn't be.
The quality of the Blu-ray is excellent, both visually and aurally. The extras are plentiful (similar to the Special Edition DVD), with a quirky Tarantino making-of rant and a QT-introduced set of deleted scenes stealing the show. Is it worthwhile to upgrade if you already have "Jackie Brown" on DVD? With few exceptions, I believe that it is always worthwhile to do so if you care for a film as part of your collection, rather than just having it around to watch from time to time. In this case, the differences in "Jackie Brown" between the two formats are significant and obvious.
Give "Jackie Brown" a chance and take it for what it is: a love story between two well-grounded adults that takes a while to develop...even amid the boisterous, violent chaos that is a Tarantino film.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2006
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!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2009
"Jackie Brown," Quentin Tarantino's third feature length film, finds the writer/director at perhaps his most straight-forward and mature. While he rejects the notion that he is maturing as a film-maker in an interview featured on the DVD, it is quite obvious that the man who created such cult classics as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs was out to prove he wasn't merely a one-trick pony, and it paid off in one of his most character driven and rewarding efforts to date.
Adapted from the Elmore Leonard novel, Rum Punch, "Jackie Brown" is the story of an aging stewardess (Pam Grier) in trouble with the law who concocts a scheme to rip off an arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson) of a cool $500,000. She of course needs the help of a bail bondsman (Robert Forster) whose midlife crisis takes a backseat to the crush he develops for her. On the surface, it appears to be just another heist film, but underneath all the layers, at its core, "Jackie Brown" is an unlikely love story from probably the last director you'd expect. While the job and the way it's carried out is a big part of the film, Tarantino knows well enough to allow his characters ample time to breathe, making it the sort of film where you forget for a while who you're watching and simply appreciate the unique personalities they bring to life.
It also helps, of course, that the film is filled to brim with a great cast of old and new, obscure and respectable. Robert De Niro has perhaps one of the most entertaining roles as an ex-con who keeps to himself, silently observing and judging the world he is getting reacquainted with. Bridget Fonda plays Samuel L. Jackson's sex-pot/pot-head surfer girl girlfriend with a dry sense of humor that bounces well off of De Niro's stone-cold demeanor. Grier and Forster, who were both dragged from the depths of obscurity only to find their careers slightly revitalized for the film are both in top form and go a long way in driving home the human nature of the plot. Michael Keaton, playing an ATF agent who would later appear as the same character in 1998's Out of Sight, is perhaps one of the film's greatest surprises, as he is in turns quirky and overly confident, while being clueless all the while.
While fans of Tarantino's more notorious fare will have a hard time seeing the brilliance of "Jackie Brown," it's a film that will no doubt please the palate of the viewer who craves rich characters, natural pacing and an engrossing plot, not to mention a killer soundtrack. Out of all of Tarantino's work, this is the one that is the most grounded in reality and, aside from Forster's Oscar nomination, deserved much more acclaim and credit than it was given. In a way, this is the cult classic in Tarantino's league of cult classics, and a film that certainly holds up time and time again.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2001
Jackie Brown: rated R, 2 hours and 40 minutes
Jackie Brown is an incredibly well played movie about guns, drugs, and money. Half a million in cash is up for grabs, and the only way to obtain it is by figuring out who is playing whom.
When Jackie (a stunning Pam Grier) is caught at an airport carrying a veritably large sum of money and a bag of crack, the outline of the story is formed. Jackie is held in custody facing possible time in prison, when the deceptive Ordell, played by black talking Samuel L. Jackson steps into the picture. Ordell hires an honest bailbondsman, Max Cherry, to release Ms. Brown. While Ordell takes care of business, we see behind-the-scenes conversations between the spaced out Robert De Niro, as Lewis, and the dim-witted Bridget Fonda, as Melanie, two of Ordell's main connections. Jackie becomes caught between two sides, both with equal objectives. Ray (Michael Keaton), the cop that apprehended Jackie earlier is after small time arms dealer, Ordell, and Ordell is pulling Jackie into his scheme of acquiring the cash. Meanwhile, Lewis and Melanie have their own plans of taking the money. Jackie can't afford to get into any more legal trouble, and if she doesn't cooperate with the man she owes her freedom to, she will be killed, which sets the stage for the perfect swindle.
Quentin Tarantino, creator of Jackie Brown, is master of `film noir', and adds an interesting perspective to one scene in particular. Jackie is forced by the feds to frame Ordell, and according to Ordell, she is supposed to double-cross them. Caught in the middle, Jackie must fake an exchange of marked bills, in order to seem loyal to both. The switch is shown through three different viewpoints, adding greatly to the effect. The first time, Jackie is shown leaving the bag of money in a dressing room. Next, Lewis and Melanie are shown actually making the exchange, with the real bag of money left behind in the dressing room, and a suspicious Max Cherry watching. Lastly, Max Cherry watches as Lewis and Melanie swap bags, and the actual bag of cash left for him to pick up. By doing this, the big picture is seen through bits and pieces. Tarantino deserves much credit for its ingenious execution, and Jackie Brown in its entirety is recognized as a success, with phenomenal acting by the whole cast, primarily Pam Grier.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 1999
I don't the know the numbers, but if this didn't succeed at the box office-I don't know why. This was an excellent, excellent movie. The (well casted)cast was tremondous. Special kudos to Pam Grier, Sam Jackson and Robert Forster. I can't believe none of these people won an academy award. Pam Grier redefines coolness. Her superb acting is best demonstrated in the scene in the mall where she shows stress on her face better then anyone I have ever seen. Samuel Jackson is of course unmatched as a street (thug)person and his bantering is hilarious. Robert Forster is someone who looks familiar, but I don't know where. His expressions and acting also are wonderful and I hope to see him soon. The movie had enough action and I was glad it was a long as I didn't want it to end!!! I hope there is a follow up with Max Cherry and Jackie Brown together, scheming up something. Lastly, this is the most realistic and best Tarantino film by far. Sure, Pulp Fiction was great, but the character development in this is superior. Also, this story could actually happen. Lastly, most action or crime films don't show characters reflecting on what they are doing or speaking about subjects other than the issue at hand, like the conversation about aging. A must, must see!!!