Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jackie Brown (1997) Review

Jackie Brown poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month!

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker
Genre: Crime

Jackie Brown is Tarantino's third directed film (if you don't count Four Rooms), following Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and expectations were high, to say the least.

The plot concerns half a millions dollars and a bunch of people who want to get their hands on it, from a money smuggling flight attendant to an illegal firearms dealer to the police.

The cast is great, with an aged Pam Grier (who was actually previously auditioned for the role of Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction) playing the star role and proving that she's still a charm to see on the screen. Samuel L Jackson plays his typecast hard gangster character, and does fabulous as always. Robert De Niro has a small role as a silent, slightly insane, criminal, and he, as it should go without saying, delivers a great performance. Robert Forester does fabulous and Bridget Fonda plays a very welcomed role as well. 

The plot is pretty engaging, though not terribly thrilling. Upon first viewing you really don't know how it will end and who will end up with the half a million dollars. Even as the viewer it is seldom you know who to trust as everyone is plotting against one another, it's very often the viewer doesn't even know when a character is lying or not. It adds a bit of mystery, a bit of curiosity, and it's very effective.

Jackie Brown was adapted from the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, something Tarantino doesn't usually do. And while the film stays fairly truthful to the essence of its source material (albeit it changes quite a few things) it also manages to have its own style. Tarantino definitely made it his own. The film, though not quite one itself, pays homage to blaxploitation films of the '70s (the film's name itself being a reference to Grier's film Foxy Brown) which just reeks of Tarantino style.

Pam Grier in Jackie Brown

However, this film is only barely recognizable as a Tarantino film. He intentionally changed his style up while directing this, trying to avoid comparison between his last two films. This style change is very noticeable in camera positioning and movement and even in plot structure. (There's a very excellent use of a split-screen shot in here).

The film has solid dialogue and it does make its share of pop culture references, but the dialogue is much more subtle and less memorable than Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction and there are far less pop culture references. It's still good dialogue, just not Tarantino's best. 

Robert De Niro and Samuel L Jackson in Jackie Brown

It makes sense that the film doesn't feel completely Tarantino though, being that it's an adaptation. So it's more like half Tarantino style  and half Elmore Leonard style. Tarantino himself even said that he feels that he managed to have about half the dialogue created by him and half taken from the novel.

In fact, the entire film is very subtle for Tarantino and much more calm and serious. Tarantino still does a great job with it though.

Bridget Fonda legs Jackie Brown

It's also the first Tarantino film to have an opening scene that doesn't involve the characters talking with each other.

The soundtrack is top notch. Really great enjoyable, immersing tunes, and also very suiting to the film and what happens on screen.

Pam Grier in the opening of Jackie Brown

Tarantino does a fabulous job and proved that he's a director that can do a variety of films well. Though it may be a little dull for fans of other Tarantino films, it's still great in his own right. Very awesome film.

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Jackie Brown on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream

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