Jackie Brown Review
The shorthand plot of Jackie Brown is that Ordell Robbie (Jackson) has half a million tied up in Mexico and he wants it. His runner Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) has been arrested by two cops (Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen) and cannot get it for Ordell. Ordell has to then conspire with a bail broker (Robert Forrester) and old friend Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) to bail out his runner to attempt to get his money. As more people get to know about the half million dollars, the more those people want the money. Forget the untamed rawness of Reservoir Dogs, or the boyhood indulgences of the Kill Bill's: Jackie Brown in the best Tarantino movie by a long chalk. Its not the story, or the direction that makes Brown a good movie. It is the way in which each part is finessed into a full living person by each, perfectly cast, actor. Insofar as grounded believable characterisation is concerned, this is much, much better than any other Tarantino movie. Not one single part is mundane or put there as an after thought and each one has a believable reason for being there.
Jackson is good if somewhat familiar in his character (see below), but there are three performances that make the movie as believable as it is: Pam Grier, Robert Forrester and Robert De Niro. Quite where these people found their performances from, I don't know, but De Niro in particular seems to exude language from simple body mannerisms. Look at how he handles the telephone half way through the movie, and you'll see what I mean.
Lighting and direction are very natural, a prerequisite for this kind of movie, and at times inspired. The Beaumont in the Trunk scene where Jackson drives off is a good example. From a technical standpoint, this movie hits all the right spots and cannot be faulted.
There are some problems, though. The most obvious is dialogue. Now, some people think that Tarantino writes good dialogue and he does at times. Robert Forrester and Michael Keaton have some good solid lines as does Grier, mostly. Tarantino, however, does have a habit of reverting to Quentinspeak. This is most clearly heard from Jackson, though Grier and De Niro have some Quentinspeak, too. Frankly, the Samuel L Jackson in Jackie Brown could easily be the same person in Pulp Fiction - each having the same characteristics and cadence. There is even one point where Jackson repeats a line from the car cleanup scene in Pulp Fiction. Some may say that this internal reference is intentional, but then that leads me onto the other beef with Brown. It is all right paying tribute to your favourite movie motifs, but Brown nearly does this to a fault. I can't help but think that Tarantino is regurgitating the blaxploitation tenor without putting an equal amount of originality into the movie at the same time. Brown isn't as bad as either Kill Bill in this respect, but there is enough homage to irritate.