Jackie Brown (1997)

“My ass may be dumb, but I ain’t no dumbass”

Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s third film as a director and the one following his biggest hit, Pulp Fiction. Before I began this month’s Bucket List I actually had not heard of it but it looked different than other Tarantino movies and struck my interest. It is different than any other Tarantino movie I have seen. For one, I believe only nine gun shots are fired in the whole movie and there is very little blood/gore. It’s also the only film that Tarantino has done that has come from a preexisting work and is not an original screenplay. However, the story was Tarantino-fied in the aspect that many of his trademark features were there. For example, the story was non-linear in some parts and at a pivotal point of the movie we saw the same event take place from different character’s perspectives. The long character dialogue and black humor are there also. Oh, and of course, there’s a couple of trunk shots too.

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Pam Grier is Jackie Brown, a flight attendant working for a low-level airline. On the side, she smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for an arms-dealer, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). Using information they attained from an informant, who Ordell promptly shot and killed after, ATF agent Ray Nicolette tracks down Jackie after a flight and detains her for money and also cocaine he found in her bag. She refuses to give him any information on where she got the money or who it belongs to and is sent to county jail to await trial. Ordell goes to Max Cherry, a bail bondsman, to pay the $10,000 bond to release Jackie.

Jackie suspects Ordell might try to kill her so she assures him she didn’t share any information and that they can actually try to smuggle the rest of his half million dollars right under the cop’s noses while they are under the assumption she is helping them get Ordell. If she goes through with it, the cops will nullify her case and she will be free. At the same time, Jackie works with Max, planning to take most of the half million to herself during the trade-off.

Tarantino always had Pam Grier in mind for this role because of her past roles in 70’s crime dramas like Foxy Brown. This movie revitalized her career as an actress, and rightfully so. She is perfect as the older and tired flight attendant looking for a break. This is also the second movie Samuel L. Jackson appears in for Tarantino and he continues to be one of my favorite things about his films, with plenty of snarky one liners; he never fails to deliver a memorable character. Robert De Niro plays an ex-con just released from prison, Louis. But De Niro’s true talents aren’t able to shine because Louis is really just there to be a dim-witted and rusty criminal who is Ordell’s right hand man.

What’s great about this film is that everything is very believable. When Ordell finds out that
half a million dollars has been taken from him, he doesn’t know who has done it right away. He takes a minute to think and the camera zooms in on his face before he says “It was Jackie Brown.” Or even the romance between Jackie and Max. Neither of the two blatantly says anything about the attraction between them. We only get little suggestions that the two are interested in each other that we have to observe ourselves.

In crime thrillers similar to this one, there might be that one surprise element that catches the audience off guard. You know what I’m talking about, that one really smart thing that happens that we weren’t expecting but happens in order for the protagonist to successfully steal the cash, or the diamonds, or whatever it is. That doesn’t happen in this film. Instead, Jackie Brown is smart from the beginning and in that way, Tarantino gives us a really great and believable film that just proves he is a director who churns out movie’s that are always worth noting.

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