Most people have heard of Quentin Tarantino – the genius mind behind films like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and Kill Bill I and II. Tarantino’s style of directing is one that many people love – his glorification of violence, satirization of serious topics and non-linear narrative define his new genre of film combining concepts from great historical films to cheesy little known works. He’s often considered one of the greatest directorial minds of our time, as he is not afraid to push boundaries and always crafts something completely original and exciting. He’s a film buff’s dream and never ever falls short of perfection.
Now most of us have seen his amazing and popular films like Resevoir Dogs and Inglorious Basterds, but my all time favourite Tarantino film is one that came out in 1997 called, Jackie Brown. I seriously love this movie. I watch it at least once a week and every time I reel in it’s perfection.
Like all of Tarantino flicks, there are tons of amazing movie stars depicted in relatable and real world ways, but the main difference in this movie is that the main characters were actually washed up actors that nobody had taken notice to in in years. The title character, Jackie Brown, was played by the amazing Pam Grier. In the 70’s Grier, starred in many Blaxploitation movies, which were overtly sexual and would now be considered a Black stereotype. During that time, she was widely renowned as a sex symbol, but after the fall of the popularity of Blaxploitation movies and the end of disco, her career soon fell flat. Her male counterpart, was played by Robert Forester. He was in two acclaimed supporting roles that got him quite noticed in the late sixties, in Reflections in a Golden Eye and The Stalking Moon. After he took a few TV roles in the seventies, his career had dried up as well.
The premise of the film is essentially how Jackie Brown, a middle aged flight attendant, is caught for smuggling money and drugs into US for her arms dealing boss, Ordell Robbie (Jackson). In order to avoid jail time, she begins working with the police in order to bring in the rest of the money Robbie has stashed in Mexico. She brilliantly plays the police and Robbie against each other in order for her to get out, and get out fast – but not without the help of her trusty compadre Max Cherry (Forester), a bail bondsman. I know that may not sound too exciting but the film is such an amazing throwback. It is in the style of a Blaxploitation film but is so unique because it has elements of modern society in it as well. The music is amazing and each scene is brilliantly crafted, it is such a joy to watch. I find it captures reaching middle age in a way we usually don’t see in Hollywood cinema.
Tarantino prodded the two out of their early retirement and set them among an amazing cast of Samuel L Jackson, Robert de Niro, Michael Keaton and a young Chris Tucker. The movie didn’t set the box offices on fire, but it did alright, even with it’s star studded cast. This is also seriously one of my favorite de Niro performances, right up there with Cape Fear, Awakening and Goodfellas. He plays a bumbling, middle-aged, ex-con who is just getting back into the game. It’s an unusual role for de Niro, who is usually given roles of power, but in this film he’s just Robbie’s (Jackson) friend and hired help.
I’m not sure what gives this movie it’s magic and lasting ability to make you think – the lead actors are fantastic, Jackie Brown is able to convey her feelings with just one expression – it’s all in her eyes and her subtle expressions. Forester is a great counterpart whose depiction of an aging, humble man allows for a lot of connection. The film also has a lot of appropriate twists and was just so real and honest. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but usually in a heist movie there is one big main conflict during the heist – the characters get over it and blah blah blah the movie ends. But in Jackie Brown, there are so many little things that go wrong (some of them you may miss when you first watch) and Jackie handles them with such authenticity, it is a joy to see her tackle a load of obstacles. The theme of girl power is common with this film as well as many others.
This film revitalized Grier’s and Forester’s careers, as well as made Bridget Fonda a household name after her success in The Godfather Part III. Even Samuel L Jackson stated this movie as his favourite Tarantino movie. So far, it’s up there on my list too. I think the real reason it’s not as well known as his other films is because of the lack of star power in the lead roles – but their performances are anything but lacking. It’s subtle, creative and exciting – just an amazing honest depiction of a woman’s struggle to make it in this world. So go home, get on Netflix, and watch Jackie Brown – sucka.