Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#736. Jackie Brown (1997)

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

Most of the characters Pam Grier played in the 1970s (CoffyFoxy Brown) had one thing in common: they were bad-ass ladies who used their tenacity to get the job done. In Jackie Brown, Ms. Grier is still "getting the job done", only this time out, she relies on brains over brawn.

Directed by Quentin Tarantino and based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown stars Grier as the title character, a flight attendant who occasionally smuggles cash into the country for L.A. gunrunner Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). 

Everything runs smoothly until the day Jackie is taken into custody by agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) of the FBI’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms division, who offers to reduce any potential charges against her in exchange for Jackie's cooperation in bringing Ordell to justice. 

Jackie eventually agrees, but only because she may have 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 elaborate plan into motion, and while there’s only a slim chance that it will succeed, for the aging Jackie, the payoff is definitely worth the risk!

In movies like Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier played 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 say Grier’s earlier characters weren’t smart, but their motivations were coming from a different place. In those '70s pictures, her primary goal was revenge. With Jackie Brown, the stakes are survival. 

After posting her bail earlier in the day, Ordell pays Jackie a visit, and she knows he’s there to kill her. Her arrest was yet another shot fired by the FBI against Ordell, and to make sure she keeps 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.

There's plenty of star power on display in this movie, including the likes of Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, and Michael Keaton. And Tarantino's penchant for engaging dialogue and stylish direction is as strong as it's ever been. That said, Jackie Brown is, first and foremost, a Pam Grier vehicle, and 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, not to worry…she still kicks ass!


Robert M. Lindsey said...

Love this movie and I thought Robert Forester was fantastic as Max Cherry.

Unknown said...

One of my fave Tarantino movies.

Anthony Lee Collins said...

I agree with Robert (Lindsey): Robert Forster was great. A great cast, yes, but Forster was the the one nominated for an Oscar, and this time the Academy got it right. His character is the one the audience identifies with because he's the one who appreciates how awesome Grier is.

(That being said, I have to mention that DeNiro is hilarious. :-) )

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Robert: I agree...Forster was also excellent! He and Grier made a formidable team.

MarvaG: I have yet to see a Tarantino movie I didn't enjoy, but JACKIE BROWN is among my favorites as well.

Anthony: Good point about Forster being the character the audience can identify with: that's 100% true! And it's funny, the 1st time I saw the movie, I thought DeNiro phoned it in. it wasn't until a 2nd viewing that I realized how good he was (and, as you say, he was hilarious).

Tommy Ross said...

First and foremost, a Tarantino film, not a Pam Grier vehicle, but yes she was spot-on and I agree with everyone here, also one of if not my favorite QT, Forster is always great, if you think about it this is QT's most mainstream type of movie, I kinda would like to see him do more like it but he's such a genius I really don't care. I'm one of those rare people that really liked DeathProof, another fav of mine.