Ratings: 7.6/10 from 106,552 users Metascore: 64/100
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writers: Quentin Tarantino (written for the screen by),Elmore Leonard (novel)
Stars: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Forster
Although I’m a Tarantino fan since his second film’s bloody pulp through the Germanic villains of his last, going back to his six coloured dogs and forward again to Beatrix Kiddo, I’ve always looked at Jackie Brown with a certain unease. Like this was the black sheep on Tarantino’s family. As to be fair, I decided to give it another shot, after all, Quentin has been trying hard enough. He probably deserves it.
The initial frames make me think immediately that this movie has grown old, fast. This is not an old movie. It is fourteen years young but its visual style yells out 80’s. Not in a good way. Reservoir Dogs is 5 years its elder and looks a lot fresher and up to date.
The movie depicts the story of Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) – it would be weird if it was any other way – a flight attendant past her prime. Past her prime without much going for her, with apparently no way to sink lower, she is forced to play as best she can with the cards she is dealt. In other words, if life gives you lemons, you work as a cash courier back and forth Mexico for a badass gun runner (Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson). In one of these trips, she is caught. From this moment one, Jackie has to always stay one step ahead everyone else.
If this was a card game, Jackie would have gotten two twos – Forgive me if this is a bad analogy and two twos is an amazing hand in some game. I’m not an expert in the matter… which is why I should probably have chosen a different analogy instead of being too lazy to change it and then ending up having more work explaining it. But what is done is done, and there is no way to change it (my delete button is broken). Back to the analogy, out of a normal deck, she was dealt the worst combination possible. She was caught trafficking money and drugs, she was sent to jail, and then released, just to find out that she was on the Ordells’ crosshairs.
The rest of the movie plays out with everyone trying to be one step ahead of everyone one else. Because the movie isn’t called Ordell Robbie, Max Cherry (Robert Forster, the bondsman who falls in love for Jackie), Ray Nicolet (Michael Keaton, the cop that arrests her), Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda, Ordell’s woman) nor Louis Gara (Robert De Niro, Ordell’s ex-con partner), we can easily guess he is going to be holding the pair of aces (…) when all is said and done.
The way the story plays out is pretty well put together. Near the end, Tarantino plays with time, repeating scenes from different point of views, in a very flamboyant fashion. Even though this is a common feature of his work – the articulation of the script in a non-linear way – here I feel that it is more of a little show-off act. Granting it would be something to be expected of the show-off master, I still feel that this is not something that Tarantino at his best would pull.
I feel like something is missing. Maybe it’s just a stupid bias. As if I had a preconceived notion that Tarantino makes good movies, and I unconsciously end up not liking this one because it didn’t fit that very narrow category. When I look at Ordell I can’t stop thinking about Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. When I look at Jackie Brown, Beatrix Kiddo comes to mind. Both characters look so bad in a comparison that it seems unfair to mention them in the same phrase.
Plus the dialogues. Oh, the dialogues! Tarantino’s trademark is present here. Though barely. Everything seems toned down. His artistry with words seems constrained. It’s not in full motion. And as the dialogue fares, so does the movie.