Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
Tag line: "This Christmas, Santa's got a brand new bag"
Trivia: It was Samuel L. Jackson's idea to give his character the long hair and the braided goatee
Throughout the 70’s, many of the characters Pam Grier played, from Coffy to Foxy Brown, had one thing in common: they were bad-ass women who used their strength and tenacity to get the job done. In Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Ms. Grier is still getting the job done; only this time, she’s relying on brains over brawn to do so.
Based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown stars Pam Grier as the title character, a flight attendant who occasionally smuggles cash into the country for an L.A. gunrunner named Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). Everything runs smoothly until the day Jackie’s taken into custody by agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) of the FBI’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms division, who offers to reduce the charges against her in exchange for her cooperation in bringing Ordell to justice. Jackie eventually agrees, but only because she thinks she’s figured out a way to pocket some of Ordell’s money before sending him off to prison. Assisted by her bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), Jackie sets her highly detailed plan in motion, and even though there’s only a slim chance she’ll succeed, for the aging Jackie, the potential payoff is definitely worth the risk.
With movies like Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier shot to stardom playing strong, passionate, sexy woman. Thanks to her turn in Jackie Brown, we can now add ‘brilliant’ to her long list of credentials. That’s not to suggest Grier’s earlier characters weren’t intelligent, just that they were coming from a different place. In those pictures, her primary motivation was revenge. With Jackie Brown, the stakes are survival. When Ordell pays Jackie a visit after posting her bail, she knows he’s there to kill her. Her arrest was yet another shot fired by the FBI against Ordell and his organization, and Ordell knows it, so, to keep her quiet, he intends to put a bullet in Jackie’s head. What Ordell didn’t bank on, however, was that Jackie would be ready for him. It’s an interesting contrast to an earlier scene, in which another ‘associate’ of Ordell’s, a young loudmouth named Beaumont (Chris Tucker), also got himself arrested, and was also bailed out by Ordell. Unfortunately for Beaumont, he didn’t figure things out as quickly as Jackie did, and his ignorance cost him.
Despite the star power on display in this movie, including the likes of Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton, Jackie Brown is, first and foremost, a Pam Grier vehicle, and after having had so much fun watching her kick ass in the 70’s, it was nice to see the actress take on a role that required more than grit to make her dreams come true.
But for all those Pam Grier fans out there, don’t worry…she still kicks some ass!