Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Nominated for 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)
The unquestionably strange follow-up to one of the greatest films of all time, Pulp Fiction, is Jackie Brown. A heist thriller that features 6 people all competing for a $500,000 sum. The rightful owner of the cash is Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), an illegal arms dealer that has his money kept in a deposit box in Mexico. Brining money back from Mexico is difficult for a criminal, which is where a flight attendant at a Mexican airline, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), comes in. After she is stopped by a noble police officer (Michael Keaton), she agrees to help the police catch Ordell in return for keeping her job as a flight attendant. After her release from prison, she meets a bail bondsman on the verge of retirement (Robert Forster), who immediately falls into the arms of Jackie’s plan. A secretly intelligent beach bunny that lives with Ordell in Harmossa Beach (Bridget Fonda) makes her attempts at the cash. The most ambiguous character in the film, is Louis, a fresh-out-the-joint bank robber, who agrees to help Ordell get his cash back.
Maybe it was the reviews that called the film “slow paced” and “a disappointment”, or maybe I was afraid of this film changing my view on Quentin Tarantino as one of my favorite directors of all time. Whatever the reason was, Jackie Brown was one of the two Tarantino movies that I had not seen (the other being Death Proof). My expectations were still relatively high, but I was not expecting it to be up to the standards that I have grown to expect when I see a Quentin Tarantino film.
While Jackie Brown does have its issues, its slow-paced nature is not one of them. If its slow-paced nature showed viewers anything, it was that Quentin Tarantino has the potential to craft a sophisticated film. Instead of Tarantino pounding every scene with more action, he crafts every scene, which leads to a thrilling conclusion. There are signs of sophistication in all of Quentin’s films that took place before and after the release of Jackie Brown, but his ability to craft the story of Jackie Brown makes his film making intelligence shine.
The biggest flaw that I found with Jackie Brown was its lack of ambition. Tarantino runs on ambition.. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1/2, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained are some of the most ambitious films of the modern era. I don’t know what happend with Jackie Brown, but the film struggles to mean anything. It’s hard to get into a film when it doesn’t have the audacity to believe the story that was written for it. It’s difficult to put a finger on who to blame for this flaw. Naturally, viewers would like to blame the writer/director for a less ambitious film; however, this is not always the case. A lack of ambition falls upon the shoulders of every person involved.
The performances in Jackie Brown are decent at best. Pam Grier is passionate and convincing in the lead role as Jackie Brown. Despite being one of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro’s character is oddly acted, which makes the viewer question the purpose of his character until the very end. Yeah he’s an asshole and by far one of the most unlikable actors in the business, but Samuel L. Jackson’s acting abilities are nothing short of fantastic. With that being said, Ordell (Jackson’s character) is poorly written making it difficult to see Jackson’s strong performance. Mark Dargus (Michael Keaton’s character) is awfully written, and poorly acted. The scenes that feature Officer Dargus are by far the weakest in the film. “Bridget Fonda, your entire job is to get high and look hot,” said Quentin Tarantino, “Oh, and do you have a problem going doggy style in the kitchen with Robert De Niro?”
“As long as this will give me a career for the next 15 years,” replied Bridget. We all know that never happened. Melanie (Fonda’s character) lacks interest and development. Her character is meant to be unpredictable, but she only ends up being uninteresting. As a reviewer, I chose to save the best for last.. hats off to Robert Forster. He does wonders for this film that struggles in the acting performance. Unlike the awful scenes with Keaton, the scenes with Forrester are the highlights of the film.
Overall, Jackie Brown is one of the worst efforts that Quentin Tarantino has ever brought forth, but it’s still pretty damn good. It’s a fun crime thriller, but I think viewers expect more from Quentin Tarantino than just, “fun”.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86/100
Best Picture Movie Reviews: 79/100