This months edition of Film Club features our first Quentin Tarantino film, and was chosen by Hamish of HC Movie Reviews. Below are his reasons for choosing Jackie Brown, followed by each members thoughts on the film.
HC Movie Reviews:
This is the second time I have had the privilege of choosing the film for Film Club. Last time I picked The Departed and seemingly so I’m continuing further into the crime genre with my pick this time, Jackie Brown. However, this wasn’t really intentional. I simply picked the film as I have been working through all of Quentin Tarantino’s films and Jackie Brown was one of the few I had still left to see and thought it would be interesting to see everyone’s thoughts on a Tarantino flick!
Quentin Tarantino is a fantastic filmmaker; he has made some of my all time favourite films. Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained are easily my favourite of his work but I also really enjoy the likes of Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and even Death Proof! So it was time to check out Jackie Brown, for me at least, this was the Tarantino film I had heard least about. I only discovered it as I searched for Tarantino’s filmography online. So I was expecting the usual Tarantino quips; plenty of bloody violence, peculiar but stimulating topics for discussion amongst the dialogue and of course his beloved shots of the female genders feet. My expectations were never really met here; Jackie Brown is the most distinct Tarantino flick I’ve seen to date.
The film has a good opening and from this I would have been able to identify it as classic Tarantino however after this the next hour of the film is, dare I say it, quite boring. That’s something I thought I’d never say about a Tarantino movie but I found my attention massively flagging. Amongst this first hour I really missed the usual top notch dialogue that I had become so used to. It’s obvious that Jackie Brown is adapted from a novel rather than coming straight from the crazy mind that is Tarantino’s. Despite my boredom for much of the first half of the film I was still able to appreciate the performances. I was especially impressed by frequent collaborator to Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell. Even though he’s remembered for other roles more so in other Tarantino movies I found his performance rather menacing here and just right for this story.
Once the plot begins to flesh out and things really get going I was straight back on board with the film. I was shocked that Jackie Brown was able to draw me back in like this as this is usually a near impossible feat for films to achieve. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the main events of the story are told, the clever use of repeating the same time period through different characters eyes was simultaneously a tease for the viewer whilst being clever and intriguing too. I picked up on the soundtrack a lot here too. When you can enjoy a scene where the character featured barely moves for long periods of time you have to praise the soundtrack and that was firmly the case here.
So whilst this wasn’t conventional Tarantino and certainly wasn’t what I was expecting Jackie Brown is a successful crime drama brought to life in creative and clever ways. I did find a large section of the film a drag which was a shame but I’m hoping that with repeat viewings my opinion of this may change. The solid performances, soundtrack and Tarantino-isms that sneak their way back into the film actually make this the perfect film to introduce a newcomer to Tarantino’s work.
What About the Twinkie?:
Perhaps the most mature of any of Tarantino’s films, Jackie Brown sits somewhat quietly between Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill: Volume I. The level of bloodshed is minimal, while the swagger of Fiction and style of Bill is not quite here, Jackie Brown remains a funked up version of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch and is one of Tarantino’s quieter efforts, if such a thing exists.
Tarantino’s clever use of wordplay and sense of style, is perhaps limited slightly by adapting someone else’s work, but it still retains the sass you would expect from crime drama that harks back to the blaxpoitation films of the 70’s; a genre that Tarantino clearly adores. In fact, it’s probably his love of the (sub) genre that enables the film to be so watchable.
As usual, Tarantino finds exactly the right cast to fill the various roles here. From rejuvenating the careers of Pam Grier and Robert Forster, to giving the likes of Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro the least assuming roles and having them make more of the roles than maybe either character deserved. Yet, it’s Samuel L. Jackson who steals the show as a foul mouthed arms dealer with the worst facial hair ever committed to screen and somehow making it look cool.
Tarantino takes an Elmore Leonard book and tries to put his spin on it. He is better at writing his own original scripts. The movie is good, but seems a bit drawn out. It is clearly missing Tarantino’s “normal people conversations” type of dialogue.
As always, Tarantino attracts high caliber actors for his projects. Here he employs Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forester, Bridget Fonda, Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton.
The story gets a bit convoluted towards the end, but if you’re really paying attention, you won’t miss anything.
Gosh, here’s one to dust off my shelf. Jackie Brown, phew… it’s been a while, woman! I just finished watching it, and it’s been probably 10 years since I watched it last, and I’m just walking around the house quoting lines from it, “I don’t have an idea where the mothafuckin’ money is” fingers snapped. This is such a badass film which gives an entire new meaning to survival and revenge. I love Pam Grier in it and I think she looked mighty foxyyyy.
It takes a heavy set of balls to come up with a flawless scam like Jackie Brown did. It’s either this, or she’ll be dead. She manages to manipulate everyone involved by simply cooperating with both sides. Her real partnership is with a 56 years old bail-bonder who seems to be taken with our good ol’ Jackie, so he most willingly helps her without expecting too much in return.
This film is filled with so many great and memorable scenes only a master-mind like Tarantino could think of. Reading Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he opens his by describing his favourite one, which is the veins popping out of Ordell’s forehead when his sitting in the Van with Louise and takes a few moments to think who’s the one who stole his $500,000 retirement fund. “It’s Jackie Brown”.
Awesome scene!! My favourite one, however, is the fitting room scene when Jackie and stone-head surfer girl, Melanie, are exchanging shopping bags. The before moments when Jackie’s trying out that fine suite, and then later on, during the switch, she’s convincing Melanie to take that little gift of a bundle of cash she leaves her in the bag, saying “what did Ordell ever do to us”, and then reorganizing the bags again, filling them with books and beach towels and a measly sum of $40,000 just to rub it in Ordell’s pissed off face. I always remember that scene the most.
It seems that this masterpiece, written and directed by the duke of crime, Tarantino, was actually sprung from a novel called Rum Punch, written by Elmore Leonard. The book tells of a 44 year old stewardess who smuggles money for a gun-runner, only her name is Jackie Burke. During the adaptation process, Tarantino went with Brown for the stewardess surname, paying homage to Grier’s infamous Foxy Brown, the iconic and sexy revenger from the 1974 film. The role of Jackie Brown did Grier good, putting her back on the acting fast track after years of keeping it low, and this woman came on full throttle looking like an ace with her blue uniform and tough girl attitude no man can resist. And a few can’t, so it seems. Love that!
Jackie Brown, the film, is well equipped with Hollywood’s finest, and a great set of tunes by The Delfonics, Johnny Cash, Foxy Brown, Bobby Womack, and Pam Grier singing “Long Time Woman”. Jackie Brown is full of funk and tasteful crime.
I give it 10/10.
Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger:
Oh man, what fun there was to be had with Jackie Brown, let me tell you that! There was so much going on, and Tarantino delivered something so typically him – fast talking, smooth, sharp, and a quirky crime plot. What it lacked, however, was the extreme violence and theatrical blood – but this did not detract from the movie at all. Jackie Brown was incredibly amusing for me, packed with plenty of humour. I was thrilled to finally see De Niro and Tarantino work together, though I must admit that I wished it had been a meatier, more De Niro type role.
The characters all had a little something to bring and I was a huge fan of the sassy Jackie Brown. That woman had no time to take crap from anyone (though unfortunately at times she had to), and was again a reminder of how Tarantino can write strong women for his films. She was sharp, she was witty, she had her own thing going, and the romance between her and Max Cherry was awesome. It was never in your face, it never took over the movie, and it never got tacky. It was so well implemented. The music fit the movie well, and the dialogue was extremely entertaining and well written. I was reading some complaints that some have had about language used in this film, and I think that it was suited for the movie, and everyone should just calm the hell down. Anyway, definitely well worth a watch.
Oracle of Film:
Jackie Brown is one of the odd one outs when it comes to Quentin Tarantino’s fine filmography. He is a director known for having limitless originality and imagination, so it seems odd that his third film, a follow-up to the wildly successful Pulp Fiction, is one based on a novel. Jackie Brown charts the story of a case of money and a group of people desperate to get their hands on it. The players: Jackie Brown, the drug mule, tired of being the pawn in other people’s games. The DEA: Michael Keaton’s calm and resourceful agent. Ordell: a drug-dealer wildly unpredictable. Melanie: Ordell’s piece of the side that may have her own reasons for taking the money and running. Jackie Brown’s key scene is the theft of this briefcase, the entire movie plotting the preparation, the aftermath and the actual heist, revolving around the cat and mouse game that stealing the money involves.
Thankfully this is nothing less than essential Tarantino. The soundtrack is better than ever before, the acting continues that trend of being a playful slice of meatiness and the direction has a quirkiness unheard of in any other film out there. In fact, it is quite interesting watching someone else’s work get a Tarantino make-over. The director gets inspired from the Blaxploitation 70s movies and makes that the theme of the day, casting Foxy Brown as his lead and mixing his story in a juicy blend of sassiness and streetwise cool. The rest of the casting is on point too. Samuel L. Jackson rarely gets a good villain role. Ordell is one of my favourite appearances from the actor, his drug mule ruthless and chilling, both appealingly charismatic, yet cold-blooded until the end. Also bonus points for getting De Niro to play the blandest character of them all. The great De Niro could have been wasted on playing little more than the incompetent henchman, yet De Niro makes a meal out of the smaller part and somehow steals the show in a way only De Niro could.
So over the last few weeks I’ve gone back to watch some of my favourite scenes from Tarantino movies and I can’t help but think that the director has more of a unique feel than anyone else in the business. Most directors have some trademarks people know them by (e.g. the Spielberg one-shot), and Tarantino definitely has those signature moments (toe close-up anyone?), but the movies have an overall feel that’s tough to tease out when talking about just one of them.
One of the most loved aspects of a Tarantino film is the soundtrack. Picture Jackie Brown set to the generic music of most heist movies with double crosses highlighted by ominous tones and chase scenes underscored with a generic Abercrombie beat (I mean…that’s what I’ve been told plays there). Part of what makes this movie work is a soundtrack which could throw down with James Gunn’s from Guardians of the Galaxy (almost). And the best part is that Tarantino loves the music too and let’s it play. The opening credits start this off with Jackie Brown (played by Pam Grier) standing still on a moving walkway to the tune of “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack. An even better use pops up later when Max Cherry bails Jackie out of jail. The scene starts silent until “Natural High” by Bloodstone cuts in, telling us exactly what we need to know about their relationship. At times actors seem cued by the music as if this were a Dark Side of The Moon meets The Wizard of Oz situation. In the finale when Max and Ordell drive to the office the music plays “didn’t I blow your mind this time?” Lyrics from the opening song include “you don’t know what you’ll do until you’re put under pressure” and similar themes which match Jackie’s story.
What gets even more praise than the soundtrack is Tarantino’s dialogue. And honestly it’s easy to overlook what’s playing in the background with what the characters are saying. Like the music, the dialogue is filled with an awesome attention to detail. It’s not quite “Royale with Cheese” levels here but there are plenty of examples that play out for the same effect. One of my favourite exchanges happens relatively early in the film just after Ordell bails Beaumont out jail. Ordell comes to ask for a favour in return, explaining that he needs help selling already mentioned machine guns in “Korea town.” The scene lasts a few minutes and wraps up in a somewhat unexpected way. What makes the scene stand out is how much detail Tarantino writes into Ordell’s request, especially given how that request plays out. These small details show up in all of his movies (another favourite is Steve Buscemi’s refusal to tip in Reservoir Dogs). This is part of what makes Tarantino’s films so much fun. He makes both watching and listening to his movies worthwhile.
Film Club Rating: 8.1/10
General Consensus: Jackie Brown remains one of Quentin Tarantinio’s best efforts, even if it doesn’t quite hit the highs of his more proclaimed works, it is still an excellent crime drama with standout performances from all involved.