Bail Bonds and Gun Runners – Jackie Brown (1997)

It grows on you.  So this is about an airline stewardess name Jackie Brown (Pam Grier).  When the ATF catches her smuggling cash into the country, she is placed in a delicate position: does she sells out of friends or does she go for the bigger risk in pulling one over on the feds?  Now if you have been following this blog in any capacity over the past year, you already know what a die hard fan of Quentin Tarantino.  I love everything that he does for cinema, and his movies just jive with me, for lack of a better word.  In the past, there was always one of his movies that I failed to connect with: Jackie Brown.  He has such an excellent track record that I was convinced that “it’s not you, it’s me”, so I gave this more than a few chances.  I’ve finally come around on this, and it has worked its way into my rotation of films I watch regularly.

1It’s very Tarantino (obviously) but it is also very different than anything he has ever done.

The reason why this may not stack up for some is all in the timing: this is Tarantino’s follow up to Pulp Fiction.  There are plenty of imitators out there, and if you go into this expecting it to be that lightening in a bottle that is that 1994 crime masterpiece, you’ll probably be disappointed, which is what happened to me back in the day.  This stands on its own merits, and it is easily his most grounded film to date.  I love him for it, but his movies all usually reach the point where it hits violent insanity.  While there is that featured here to be sure, it’s less front and center, and only really happens in brief outbursts and because the story calls for it.  This movie is much less about the extremes and more about this woman in a rough spot, being forced to play both sides, and seeing if she will end up double crossing, triple crossing, or even quadruple crossing these dangerous men.

2This is De Niro at his most mumbliest.

While I do feel much more positively about this than I did about a decade ago, I still have one critique: you feel the length to this.  It’s all quality elements, and I don’t necessarily feel that anything should be cut out, but when you get to the end, you feel like you’ve watched a long movie.  I have exactly 0 familiarity in blaxploitation on film, so I’m sure I missed all the insider references, but in a way, that makes it feel like a much more original piece, for me at least.  I love Samuel L. Jackson here who plays this snake in the grass, and Robert Forster owns the role of Max Cherry, which is one of the greatest character names I’ve ever heard.  The climax where you get to see the same scene from different perspectives a la Rashômon is amazing, the soundtrack is one that you’ll want to buy or at least save to a Spotify playlist, and this is all together a well put together story.

Jackie Brown (1997) ****1/2

– Critic for Hire


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