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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 26.62%
Average: 14.94%
Pretty Bad: 9.74%
Total Crap: 0.65%

9 reviews, 100 user ratings

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Jackie Brown
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by Jay Seaver

"A triumph of the underdogs in its cast."
4 stars

The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, just had a series where they paired each of Quentin Tarantino's movies with one of its influences, and "Jackie Brown" was one I wanted to see in particular, because I remember it being not such a big deal to me when it came out - just another movie. Fifteen years later, that's what makes it special - it is "just another movie", and in a career filled with formal trickery and genre homages, it's the one that shows what he can do without gimmicks.

It's also the only time he's adapted a single novel, Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. Despite now being the title character, Jackie (Pam Grier) is initially shuffled off to the side as the focus falls on Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a small-time gun-runner whose associates - dismissive moll Melanie (Bridget Fonda), former cellmate Louis (Robert De Niro), and motor-mouthed dealer Beaumont (Chris Tucker) - aren't exactly impressive Indeed, he needs to use bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to bail the latter out. It's when he also has Max bail out Jackie - the flight attendant who smuggles Ordell's money in and out of Mexico is less down on her luck than never up on it - that things get interesting: Max takes an immediate liking to her, and she sees an opportunity to not be the pawn that both Ordell and the Feds think she is.

Robert Forster had better send Quentin Tarantino a very nice Christmas present and card every year, because it's not difficult to imagine a parallel universe where he's got the dopey sidekick role and Robert De Niro is the co-star of the movie, rather than vice versa. It likely wouldn't have been as good - when was the last time De Niro was able to convey the sort of low-key, lived-in sincerity as Forster? - but you can easily see a studio wanting that, just looking at their star power at the time and the number of lines in the script for each. Fortunately, it didn't go down that way (although I seem to recall that when it was still being called "Rum Punch", Sylvester Stallone was attached to one of those roles; that might have been interesting). Forster is the working-class heart of the movie, delivering the solid support both Jackie Brown the character and Jackie Brown the movie need to accomplish bigger things without ever seeming less important.

And it's kind of sad that Pam Grier didn't get the same sort of career boost Forster did - she's worked since then, sure, and maybe she's had better roles than I think because directors don't often think to cast someone like her in a role she can kill unless they're specifically making something for a black audience, which doesn't get in my face very often. It's sad because, for as much as this movie reminded people of how awesome the young blaxploitation star Pam Grier was, she was much more pin-up than actress then, which is not the case here. She's fantastic, an utter joy to watch as she brings Jackie from this low place to the point where the audience realizes that she is always the smartest person in the room - and gets some delight out of how she's discovering this.

She's not working alone, of course. Consider the film's opening scene, where she's standing still on an airport people-mover, then has to run to catch her flight. Most of the time, the action on-screen moves from left to right, mimicking how the Western world reads, but here, depending on how you look at it, either she's moving right-to-left or she's standing still and the world is moving. It goes on a while and the credits run during that scene, so the audience really notices the odd rhythm of it, but still maybe doesn't quite make the connection to later in the movie, just before when everybody is trying to con each other, when Jackie is again walking right to left, but striding purposefully. She's the same woman, and she's still moving against the tide, but her attitude has completely changed. It's a great example of the way Tarantino is playing this movie - laid-back, adopting Elmore Leonard's style in many ways, but with purpose. He gives himself enough time not to build Jackie, Max, Ordell, and company up as more than they are but to still make them individually interesting without giving them easy quirks, and the cleverness isn't in which movie he's quoting, but in how this one is playing out.

For as good a job as Tarantino, Grier, and Forster are doing, the film still has its problems. The big one is that this is an indulgently long movie, and the scenes that don't center on Jackie and/or Max seldom deserve their length. Sure, you need Ordell, but Samuel L. Jackson is almost too cool for the role, too energetic and witty for the part the character plays, and he certainly doesn't need De Niro's and Fonda's never-interesting characters around just so that the final shell game can have some more moving parts. Chris Tucker, believe it or not, has the most entertaining secondary character, and he's (smartly) gone before he can wear out his welcome. There's a hitch toward the end that could be smoothed out without losing the movie's calm, experienced rhythm.

Now, maybe this is all wrong on the face of it - maybe both the virtues and faults of this movie are the result of Tarantino bolting a bunch of references onto "Rum Punch". Even if that's the case, though, "Jackie Brown" at least feels like it's less about itself than it is about its characters, and that's something one doesn't always get from Quentin Tarantino's work.

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originally posted: 06/15/13 13:25:44
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User Comments

6/16/13 Mr Right Blends crime thriller, black comedy & wistful romance -- and succeeds wildly at all 3 5 stars
12/21/11 John Habig Everybody is great in this but Pam is still the sexiest badass even in her 40s 5 stars
6/11/10 Flathead King The films benefits from Tarantino taking a more mature approach to his filmmaking. 3 stars
8/28/09 Jeff Wilder Superb. 5 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold Like (superior) "Chinatown",the rest of the movie makes up for its rather unfulfilling end. 5 stars
12/27/06 Agent Sands Those who've overlooked it, buried in the hype of Q's others, you're really missing out. 5 stars
9/29/06 Leslie Stone A must-see love story with superb plot and character development. 5 stars
6/19/06 Indrid Cold Can somebody explain why Tarantino is supposed to be such a genius? 3 stars
2/13/06 Eden Tarantino's most complex, mature film. Probably his best 5 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Elmore Leonard is actually my favorite author, and this is his second greatest adaptation 5 stars
9/21/05 Jonathon Holmes another great Tarintino movie 5 stars
8/25/05 Eden Slow but excellent characters and direction. Tarantinos best but most underated 5 stars
7/21/05 Brandy Harrington Okay... 3 stars
7/07/05 Isaac Baranoff Quentin Tarantino + Elmore Leonard = GOLD! 5 stars
6/12/05 DM Slow at times, but proof that Forster and Grier are both very talented. 4 stars
6/04/05 Denise Gannon say what you will about QT, but there' hes a master @ character direction 5 stars
5/30/05 Jake A Delicious Crime drama from Quentin Tarentino 5 stars
4/20/05 Chris Stephens Way to long 3 stars
4/16/05 Linda Denisen I enjoyed this movie but dodn't "just Love it". 3 stars
4/08/05 Lina Correa Great Ride of a movie, lots of action and well developed characters 4 stars
4/05/05 killbill03 Amazing. Slower paced and wonderfully directed 5 stars
3/31/05 hannaho One of Tarantino's best films. 5 stars
2/17/05 C Vega not tarantino's best but still good 4 stars
2/13/05 romeo not that good but still alrite so yeah 5 stars
2/07/05 Danielle R. Tarantino's best film. An underrated masterpiece. 5 stars
2/06/05 Tom Benton Though it's one of Tarantino's lesser achievements, it's in no way a bad film ... 4 stars
12/06/04 John Bale Although long strong characters and clever plot twists make this very entertaining. 5 stars
10/24/04 ODH Boring. Big letdown, big waste of time... 1 stars
10/22/04 Daniel good but was destined to be called a lesser film than pulp fiction, 'pulp' was just amazing 4 stars
9/27/04 Smitty It's not Pulp Fiction - it's better. Perfectly cast and played deliciously slow. 5 stars
9/18/04 R.W. Welch Overlong but well played caper pic. Forster & Jackson right on. 4 stars
5/24/04 Peter Understated, easy-paced, great dialogue 4 stars
5/24/04 Butterbean A slick, but mild mannered Tarrantino that still delivers interesting storytelling. 4 stars
5/18/04 Jack Sommersby Smart and endearing. Tarantino's best film, and a showcase for the magnificent Forster. 4 stars
5/18/04 y2mckay Meanders for quite a while, but comes together nicely in the end 4 stars
4/28/04 sean Awesome soundtrack, story, characters, and comedy. 5 stars
4/06/04 Miss Julie I don't know who I wanted to make out with more, Grier or Forster. Great flick. 5 stars
1/24/04 CC Amazing 5 stars
12/15/03 Phil M. Aficionado Strong yet breezy; 4.5 but round it up for Pam Grier and Robt Forster performances 5 stars
11/15/03 Ultron Easily as good as Pulp Fiction 5 stars
11/05/03 ND not hardcore as RD or PF, but still awesome casting and plot 4 stars
10/24/03 Curious George Decent 4 stars
10/14/03 Hank Your reviewers got it wrong; this flick is about Jacky, nothing else. 5 stars
9/23/03 Jon Lyrik Excruciatingly boring and stiff. Like looking at a rock for 2 1/2 hours. 2 stars
9/18/03 Samuel Justus i love Tarintiono's twists and Turns!! Fucking Brilliant! 5 stars
8/30/03 Peace Frog Bridget Fonda is hottest than three hells! I would have lasted longer than 3 fuckin' min.! 5 stars
5/25/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng My favorite Tarantino movie. I love the theme song, "Across 110th Street". Wicked movie. 5 stars
5/24/03 Andrew Carden Flawless Masterpiece; Grier Gives A One-Of-A-Kind Performance. 5 stars
5/17/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!) Not as good as Dogs, Pulp, and Romance, but it's a great great story & great soundtrack. 4 stars
4/03/03 dave you call yourself a critic ? it was awsome! 5 stars
1/27/03 alex another one of Tarantinos classic movie landmarks 5 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Tarantino's best. Forster is extraordinary! 4 stars
11/28/02 Zack W. Young Tarantino directing Bridget Fonda, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, and Sammy. 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Good cast in a bloated, heavy film 4 stars
9/26/02 Morally Sound I loved this movie. The music fits like a glove. Awesome. 5 stars
9/04/02 Joe Zappa Hip, diverting, and funny. 4 stars
8/10/02 Film Guy The acting is spectacular. The Directing is Spectacular. but that doesnt make a movie 3 stars
8/08/02 I Can't Swim Excellent in all respects but Grier & Forster reach for the stars & obtain them 5 stars
7/21/02 Croweater A very good film, I liked it a lot.Great acting,scripting,direction. 5 stars
4/10/02 70's Love I love how Tarantino used the same music that was used in Grier's Foxy Brown and Coffy 4 stars
2/09/02 Jay Fox I love this film. Quentin Tarantino's dialogue and direction are genius along with Leonards 5 stars
1/15/02 Murray Castles Very good film. The entire cast was great. 4 stars
11/18/01 Gary Entertaining if overlong. Grier is excellent & there's great support from Fonda and Forster 3 stars
11/16/01 John Greer and Forester deserved nominations. 5 stars
10/25/01 Henry Ginsberg not as good as pulp fiction,but still brilliant 5 stars
9/06/01 spaceworm Clearly the third place Tarentino, still... 5 stars
9/01/01 Butterbean Why don't someone give Jackson an Oscar? Great performances all around, but mediocre movie 3 stars
8/10/01 E-Funk Tarantino's return is more than welcomed. A cool adaptation of the book. 5 stars
8/07/01 Joe Zappa Elmore Leonard's an idiot, but the movie's great. 5 stars
4/20/01 James Brilliant 5 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L Totally overrated movie. Not Quentin's best... 2 stars
3/16/01 Elvisfan Is that Rutger Hauer? No, its Helmut Berger. 5 stars
3/08/01 Sanja FUCKING AWESOME!! 5 stars
2/16/01 Jake I enjoyed it. Jackson was phat! 4 stars
12/30/00 Gerald F. Judd Mutherfuckin' Great! 5 stars
11/25/00 The Evil Penguin Pulp Fiction meets its partner, Jackie Brown 4 stars
11/01/00 Buffalo I may have liked it more than Pulp Fiction. Nah, maybe not; but it was a damn good film. 5 stars
5/26/00 Bruce It more than holds it's own against "Pulp Fiction" 5 stars
4/29/00 markus great! 5 stars
4/22/00 JonnyAngel Hmmmm... 3 stars
4/12/00 the Grinch Understated and very engrossing movie. Too bad some people wanted Pulp Fiction 2: Pulpier 5 stars
2/21/00 Kyle Broflovski Great script and hip, juicy characters. Damn good movie, motherfuckers!!! 5 stars
11/04/99 Karahde Khan Not as good as Pulp Fiction, but almost. Maybe QT's most mature film. 5 stars
10/30/99 Bozo "no, its Helmut Berger" 5 stars
9/29/99 Glitter Berry Forster was great, Grier was great, plot a bit weak for Q.T. 4 stars
8/20/99 Japtalian AK-47, when you absolutely, positively wanna kill every motherfucker in the room. 5 stars
8/04/99 Dax Not Tarantino's best (Pulp Fiction), but still a damn good film. 4 stars
8/04/99 Ed Wood much better the second time around 4 stars
6/15/99 Dylan This film is so under-rated. This is easily as good as Reservoir Dogs. 5 stars
6/15/99 Ver-Jun Tarantino revives the blaxploitation genre. Christmas has come early. 5 stars
4/13/99 Jon Jackson I really wanted this movie to kick ass, but it just tickled ass. 3 stars
2/18/99 Bishop I'll kill him n' 10 other niggaz look just like him. 4 stars
2/09/99 Gary I liked the plot even though you knew where it was leading. MF'n good movie. 4 stars
2/02/99 Vick Di Brecci Very good, underrated despite showing Tarantino's increased range. 4 stars
10/29/98 Silent Rob QT taking his time to infuse life into someone elses words. It worked for me. 4 stars
9/09/98 Bruce Willis' mama. Could have been better. Dragged on but mostly enjoyable. 4 stars
9/04/98 Badass A masterpiece! Tarantino proves he is very versital. A somber, desperate and smart movie. 5 stars
8/16/98 J-Guy too long. too boring. the time fucking was cool. 3 stars
8/14/98 {{{OZ}}} 70's production values in a Pulp Fiction suit. My buddie walked out. 2 stars
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  25-Dec-1997 (R)
  DVD: 10-Aug-2004

  20-Mar-1998 (18)

  05-Mar-1998 (MA)

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