As an artist, Quentin Tarantino is never one to sit still, and following the triumph of Pulp Fiction he set out on a bold new course with Jackie Brown, a unique and different project that really stands out in the director’s long list of projects.
A middle-aged woman finds herself in the middle of a huge conflict that will either make her a profit or cost her life.
Adapted from the novel Rum Punch by celebrated author Elmore Leonard, a man who is regarded as a personal hero of Tarantino, it allowed the director to really try something different within the crime genre. Tarantino took Leonard’s novel and really made it his own, changing the protagonist from a white woman to a black woman and envisioning a very quick-witted and character-driven narrative that really plays with its audience, along with the crime genre itself. Packed out with Tarantino’s trademark dialogue, Jackie Brown is packed with twists at every turn and you never know which corner the movie or the director is going to take you down next.
Stepping into the role of down-on-her-luck flight attendant Jackie Brown is legendary Hollywood actress Pam Grier. Sassy, fierce and extremely street smart, Grier really takes audiences for a ride here with her turn as Brown, playing all the men around her for suckers. Grier was another personal heroine of Tarantino and you can tell from the attention that he gives her on the screen that the director had a blast working with her on set. Grier gives the character a real capability, and her relationship with co-star Robert Forster as bail bondsman Max Cherry has plenty of real sparks, which shifts up the drama of Jackie Brown and allows Tarantino to try his hand with a bit of romance here as well.
Giving audiences a terrific showcase of his fabulous range is star Samuel L. Jackson as gun dealer and hardened criminal Ordell Robbie, and it’s a performance that totally grips you. Bringing the street cred and delivering Tarantino’s lines as if they’re the prose of some kind of Harlem Shakespeare, Jackson channels a slick too cool for school attitude as the sinister Ordell and he brings a dangerous charisma to the screen with his actions here. He literally steals every scene that he’s in and it’s fun to watch him play cat and mouse with Grier’s Brown who ain’t gonna put up with any of his shit. Jackson is once again a pleasure to watch and he makes this bad guy a whole lot of fun to watch.
Tarantino packs out the rest of his cast with an eclectic mix of terrific performers including Robert DeNiro as recently paroled bank robbing bruiser Louis Gara, Bridget Fonda as surf bunny sex pot Melanie Ralston, Michael Keaton as hard-charging ATF agent Ray Nicolette and Chris Tucker as fast-talking and ill-fated petty crim Beaumont Livingston. All of these performers bring their A-Game and there’s plenty of fun to be had with their interactions through the movie which really keeps you guessing as an audience member as they constantly zig and zag.
In relation to his entire collected works, Jackie Brown is, in my opinion, Tarantino’s most experimental film, and the director has a lot of fun playing with genre here. As Tarantino’s homage to the 1970s blaxploitation genre, with films such as Coffy, Super Fly and Shaft being key homages, Jackie Brown also has a very French New Wave style to it in relation to how it was shot, and the director blends two genres to create a very unique work. It’s a very clever piece of cinema that really plays with the genres that it sits in, and it absolutely keeps you on your toes. A lot of attention is paid to the visual language of Jackie Brown and there’s a real L.A. flavour to it with plenty of bright colours and open spaces that capture the essence of the city at play.
Jackie Brown makes for a very groovy watch and is jam-packed with a narrative that keeps you guessing at every turn. It’s an incredibly interesting entry to the directors’ list of work’s and there’s considerable passion at play here that make it a must watch for any Tarantino fan.