6 August 2005 | FilmOtaku
Decent, but don't expect a Pulp Fiction sequel
"Jackie Brown", the 1997 film starring Pam Grier as the title character, a flight attendant who smuggles cash into the country for a shady associate, Ordell (Jackson) is the third film directed by Quentin Tarantino. When Jackie is tagged by the feds, (played by Keaton and Michael Bowen) she is willing to give up Ordell because she has a plan of her own. Meanwhile, Ordell has proved himself to be a pretty nasty character, killing associates without even a hint of betrayal, so to say that Jackie is walking a tightrope is an understatement. Rounding out the cast is Robert Forster as Max Cherry, Jackie's bail bondsman hired by Ordell when Jackie is initially arrested by the feds, and eventual love interest, Robert DeNiro as Louis, an associate of Ordell's who is fresh out of jail and about to buy in on one of Ordell's gun selling schemes and Bridget Fonda as Melanie, one of Ordell's women, and object of both fascination and irritation for Louis.
"Jackie Brown" features many "Tarantinoisms" that we have come to expect from his films; slick cinematography, a soundtrack that is perfect for the film (in this case, 1970's R&B) a rich cast of eccentric characters, a solid amount of violence and even more profanity. If there was a Tarantino film that DIDN'T include these elements, I would be disappointed. As John Travolta was dug up to star in "Pulp Fiction", Tarantino resurrects two 1970's actors, Robert Forster and Pam Grier, and both prove once again that there are few contemporary directors around who have better gut instincts and an eye for casting than he. Although there could have been many other bigger name, safer choices that would have jumped to be in Tarantino's perceived follow-up to "Fiction", the film geek once again proves that he knows best. Grier is absolutely luminous, and looks at least 10 years younger than her actual age. Better than that, she is sexy, spunky and knows what she wants. The supporting cast is also excellent, and while it's definitely film geeky to admit it, like the actors who appear in the ensemble films of Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson, I always admire the cast of Tarantino's film because while they may not have a large or prestigious role in the film, they are always juicy characters that are sometimes played against type. I loved seeing Michael Keaton as a hard-faced, leather jacket clad fed, and Robert DeNiro, who can chew scenery better than a lot is fantastic as the quiet, shlubby and slobby sidekick.
Anyone who approached "Jackie Brown" looking for a Pulp Fiction sequel was probably either somewhat disappointed or, like me, encouraged that Tarantino can not only do flashy, but can spin a good story as well. And perhaps even more importantly, he wasn't a two-trick pony with the inspired films "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs". While I have mixed feelings about Tarantino the man, (I am endeared to his almost autistic-knowledge of film and his inherent film geekiness, but I am both fascinated and repelled by his almost constant hysteria and, particularly in the infancy of his fame, his inability to turn down an acting job or engage in ceaseless self-promotion) I certainly count him among my favorite directors and anytime he releases a film, it's an event. Before seeing his latest releases, "Kill Bill Vol. 1 & Vol. 2" I lamented that he possibly took too much time off between projects, but after seeing "Vol. 1" I quickly reconsidered, saying that if he is going to consistently put out superior product, he can take as much time as he wants.
And that is why I look at "Jackie Brown", a film that wasn't quite as stellar or lauded as his others with a certain amount of fondness, because it is a great piece of work, without all of the flash, bells and whistles of its predecessor. Knowing that a "Pulp Fiction 2" would be an instant hit, Tarantino decided to go in a different direction, and it's that willingness to take a chance, even if it's not a huge leap, that makes me appreciate it that much more. It's probably my least favorite Tarantino film, but even my least favorite Tarantino film garners a better rating than 80% of contemporary cinema. Even Tarantino fans that I know let this film go under their radar, so if you are in the same boat, seek this one out; it is well worth it. 7/10 --Shelly