Updated: Aug 23, 2021
After receiving all the praise, accolades, and success of Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino takes a step back with the release of Jackie Brown (1997), a lesser-known project in the director’s filmography. Adapted from Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel, Rum Punch, Tarantino takes the author’s original work, changes the narrative, adjusts the characters, obviously adds his snappy dialogue, and overall “Tarantinofies” it. With that being said, this film falls short in terms of the “Tarantino genre.” However, this may not be a bad thing as the director focuses on romance, something different from his two previous films*. So, is Jackie Brown more of a step back? Or more of a lateral shift compared to his other work?
Tarantino places Pam Grier front in center as Jackie Brown, a money smuggling flight attendant, working below Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) an arms dealer working outside of Los Angeles. Ordell invites his former convict friend, Louis (Robert De Niro) who was just released from prison to join him alongside his unseen journey waiting ahead. Smuggling money back and forth from Los Angeles to Mexico, Jackie Brown is arrested after the LAPD intercepts the flight attendant carrying loads of Robbie’s cash and a bag of cocaine. Shortly after, Robbie bails her out using bails bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster). While doing so, Cherry immediately becomes infatuated with the daring and unique Jackie Brown. The two form a connection and the bails bondsman acts as an ally. The LAPD offers Jackie the option to help take down Robbie, which would result in her staying out of prison. Meanwhile, she negotiates a deal with Robbie to pretend to help the LAPD while smuggling in $550,000 of his money. In reality, Jackie decides to instead double-cross both Robbie and the LAPD and make off with the smuggled money, with the help of her new love interest, Max.
Similar to John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino revives the at the time, somewhat dull career of Pam Grier, placing her as the leading woman. He also brings Robert Forster back to life and lands the actor his first Oscar nominee (Best supporting actor). Are you picking up the trend here? It should also be mentioned that Robert De Niro plays an atypical, quieter part compared to his roles in the past.
While still having qualities and traits of the director, Jackie Brown acts as a different role in Tarantino’s work. The violence is lessened, the swagger feels different, but it is still all there. The beginning, middle, and end of this film are great! There are moments in between that drag on and slow the movie, which I believe is why this film is considered one of the more underrated Tarantino films. All-in-all, Jackie Brown should be talked about more and receive the praise that it deserves. Tarantino has no trouble telling yet another great, enjoyable story, but do not expect the usual blood, violence, and excitement we see in the rest of his career.
Story/Plot – 18/20 Direction – 18/20 Acting - 18/20
Cinematography – 18/20 Score/Soundtrack – 18/20
*Are we really going to count “Pumpkin” and “Honey Bunny” in Pulp Fiction as the epidemy of romance? And yes, I know he wrote True Romance (1993) but we a talking about his narrative features he directed himself, people!
The Founder of @HennionProductions, Matthew Hennion