Jackie Brown (1997)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/29/04
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino, Elmore Leonard
Cast: Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker

Quentin Tarantino's most coherent and linear film to date, probably due to the fact that he didn't write the story. Tarantino takes a nostalgic look at the blaxploitation genre of the 1970's and updates it for the 90's with a cast of talented veteran actors. Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson at his baddest) is a small time arms dealer with a load of cash in Mexico. He has an airline flight attendant named Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) smuggle his money into the States, until she gets squealed on by Chris Tucker. In an attempt to get Ordell, the Feds (including oddball officer Ray Nicolette, played by Michael Keaton) pick up Jackie and put the squeeze on her. However, she's pretty clever and has plans to clear her name, bust Ordell, AND steal all of his money in the process. To help her with her scheme is a good natured bond bailsman named Max Cherry (Robert Forster), who develops an innocent love interest in Jackie. Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda are onboard as Ordell's lackeys, and the whole caper goes surprisingly smoothly.

Like all of Tarantino's work, "Jackie Brown" is tedious to watch. It's almost entirely character and dialog driven, and the pace is plodding. Tarantino certainly has a talent for inane and banal banter, and it's just a shame that I can't appreciate it. He does, however, manage to perfectly pull off the whole 1970's film style, and his attention to detail is definitely noteworthy. Pam Grier and Robert Forster give excellent performances, and Samuel L. Jackson is in his element. Bridget Fonda is amazingly sexy in her stoner surfer girl role - I had no idea she was even capable of pulling that off. Wow. De Niro is so subtle and subdued, that you hardly even know he's there, which is pretty impressive. An excellent production all around, but it could definitely use some editing to tighten things up a bit. I suppose the benefit of Tarantino's meandering approach is that you really get to know the characters and their motivations, which is something that I'm not so much interested in.

Not surprisingly, the highlight of the film is a video tape that Ordell plays called "Chicks Who Love Guns." It is quite clearly a parody of Lenny Magill's top selling "Rock And Roll 3" (1987), complete with cheesy computer graphics and a loud heavy metal soundtrack. Ironically, Tarantino's spoof surpasses the original in every way. It's a slick and professional looking production with high quality talent, excellent lighting and camera work, and professional editing. It also shows targets getting demolished, which most "girls 'n' guns" videos don't show. The special edition DVD includes the entire video segment that was shot for this sequence, and it alone is worth the price of admission.