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Review: Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Premise: An adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel. A flight attendant (Pam Grier) gets caught in between law enforcement and an illegal gun dealer (Samuel L. Jackson). She manipulates both sides in an attempt to stay out of jail and walk off with a bag of money.

What Works: Jackie Brown is a very different picture within Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. Although Jackie Brown deals with a lot of the same gangster characters and environments that marked Tarantino’s previous films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, it is told in a much more traditional way. The film is mostly linear and progresses along a clearly defined three-act structure. Rather than innovate with narrative form, Tarantino indulges his characters and Jackie Brown paints a very sympathetic picture of the people involved in the story. The heart of the film is the relationship between Jackie Brown (Grier) and a bail bondsman (Robert Forster). The two actors play a pair of characters who have been beaten down by the world and are stuck in a miserable place, hating their jobs and looking for a way out. The romantic subtext of their scenes is passionate but also very sweet, and it gives the film a heart and a humanity that so many heist and gangster films lack. The other notable performance here is Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson is much more contained and controlled in his role in Jackie Brown than he is in other performances, threatening others without raising his voice and using his eyes and posture to convey menace.

What Doesn’t: While Jackie Brown does a nice job with its principle cast and generally moves its story along, the film is a little slow moving and is not shot with the same kind of flair of Tarantino’s other films. The climax of the picture is especially underwhelming in this regard and is not paced or staged very well.

DVD extras: Introduction by Tarantino, documentary, featurettes, Siskel & Ebert review, deleted scenes, trailers, radio spots, stills galleries, and text articles.

Bottom Line: While Jackie Brown is not as flashy, as memorable, or as violent as Tarantino’s previous films, it is overall extremely well done. The characters here are a bit nicer than some of Tarantino’s other work and the director proves himself able to work in a more conventional style of storytelling.

Episode: #267 (December 6, 2009)