Jackie Brown (15)

Directed by Quentin Tarentino
Starring Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton

Tarentino's third film as writer/director is a bit of a departure from the blood soaked Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. The main difference is the lack of slick and graphic violence, although there are killings- hey this IS Tarentino after all! The other big difference is that the lead characters are decidedly non-hip and are mostly middle aged. Pam Grier is the titular Jackie Brown, an ageing air stewardess who works for gun dealer Odell(Jackson). After getting picked up carrying cash for him, she cooks up a plan to make a deal with the cops, with her rather smitten bail bondsman Max(Forster) while handing over Odell and getting his money. This scam is the heart of the film, and it has violent and deadly consequences for some of the characters.
Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, many of Tarentino's trademarks are present as usual; The hip and witty dialogue that Tarentino is well known for is present; The story unfold in a non-linear way- like Reservoir Dogs- particularly during the scam; Once again Tarentino uses unlikely actors, Grier starred in several so-called blaxploitation films of the 70s, and Forster played a TV detective.
Pam Grier is excellent in the title role, and deserves a career revival a la Travolta, although as a black female, is unlikely to, unfortunately. She looks in great shape and is a very sexy 40-something. She conveys the faded glamour of a second rate stewardess well. Forster looked positively geriatric with heavily dyed hair. He was OK, but his presence smacked of Tarentino fandom more than anything, although he was Oscar nominated. Samuel L Jackson is always entertaining, although he could do with a bit of variety in his movie roles. He is ALWAYS the smart nouthed, fast talking guy with a hint of menace. Here he initially comes across as all talk, but we soon see him killing casually(although non graphically), and he is eventually seen as the slightly cartoonish villain out to get our Jackie. Robert DeNiro is better than he has been for ages as a rather dim heavy for Odell. DeNiro is sometimes a bit showy-in my opinion- whereas here he seems to revel in the low key supporting role as Jackson chews the scenery. Michael Keaton, on the other hand, gives a way over the top performance trying to be all twitchy and interesting in his limited screen time.
Tarentino paces the movie pretty well, although it was quite long. However, the criticism of glamorizing the life of violence is not one to be levelled at this movie as much as his others. The heroes are definitely Jackie and Max, and although they do commit a crime, they are portrayed as honest hard working types, who are stealing only from criminals. Jackson may have the funniest lines, but there is no doubt that Odell is the baddie, and DeNiro a dumb murdering thug. Odell's obssession with guns and money, his casual keeping of numerous mistresses and his way of dealing with problem employees(ie shooting them) mark him as the nastiest character on view. Bridget Fonda (now what happened to HER glittering movie career?) is the youngest star and the most irritating. She plays a shallow and pretty despicable character, although she fits right in with the backstabbing criminal world of Odell and company.
With less action and excitement than his other movies, this one didn't do quite as well in America, but I do think it is one Tarentino will be proud of. It displays a maturing of his film making, from the stylized violence of his first two film. The characters and their motives play a large part in Jackie Brown, although his expletive filled dialogue would still make your granny blush. His has the ability to tell a story well, and creates interesting characters who talk in the coolest way. One of the difficulties facing Tarentino in the future will be to avoid self parody. His film are very distinctive, although many have tried to imitate him. It will be interesting to see if he can do something NOT involving guns/drugs/scams/robberies/hookers. 7/10

April 98

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