Jackie Brown

March 4, 2010
Whether you like Tarantino or not, you have to admit that the guy knows his movies. Each of his films can be seen as a tribute to the movies he loved when he was young, only he adds his own style and taste to each. In Jackie Brown, his first film after his magnum opus Pulp Fiction, Tarantino gives a shout-out to the trashy, yet eccentric, "blaxploitation" movies of the 60's and 70's. For those unaware, "blaxploitation" films were movies that contained many African-American actors in films that were often over-the-top, zany, and took place in the ghetto.

Based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, the film starts with the titular character, a low-paid flight attendant, getting arrested for smuggling drugs and money for her 'boss', Ordell Robbie. After being bailed out, we witness Jackie play off two groups - federal government agents and Ordell - as she attempts to take advantage of her next job by taking the money involved for herself. Ex-cons, beach bunnies, and other colorful characters are introduced as events unfold.

The characters are all pretty cool and the performances are quite enjoyable, especially Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie. I love Tarantino's casting here, as every actor fits his or her part perfectly. Pam Grier is the only woman who could have ever played Jackie Brown, which is thanks to all of her previous experience with "blaxploitation". Robert Forster, a very underrated actor, comes off well as Max Cherry, the bondsman who develops a crush on Grier's character. While I enjoyed all of these characters, some of them - like Louis or Melanie - just fell flat slightly. This isn't to say they were bad, but they didn't come off as strong as Tarantino-written characters usually do.

Moving on, the soundtrack for Jackie Brown is just great, with plenty of funk/soul tracks that give the film its style. Each song just clicks with the movie, as most of Tarantino's soundtracks do, and the result is simply fantastic.

The pacing, though, kind of suffers under the weight of the film's length. It doesn't drag, per se, but you can definitely feel Jackie Brown's length during moments of the film. Tarantino's witty dialogue and interesting characters make up for some of the slower scenes, but it makes it that much harder to stay interested in what's going on. I mean, I'm one who usually enjoys a great slow pace, but the execution is just flawed here, probably thanks to weaker-than-usual characters.

Speaking of which, Michael Keaton, who plays main character Agent Ray Nicolette, is considerably weak in comparison to the other characters of Jackie Brown. It's a shame, as he's supposed to be the 'leader' that's opposite Ordell Robbie, but Keaton's performance is just so weak. His presence is barely felt in the film at all, to the point where his removal wouldn't have much effect on any element of the story. Samuel L. Jackson's strong performance, possibly the film's best, especially belittles any importance in Keaton's character.

The last act, however, really picks the film considerably up. The dialogue's s still great, the pacing works a fine step, and the tension between the characters is at its best.

Jackie Brown isn't up to Tarantino's usual caliber. Some of the characters are flops - especially Michael Keaton's - and the pacing gets bogged down a lot during a great majority of the film. I love character development as much as the next guy, but Jackie Brown could have used some editing. This is Quentin Tarantino we're talking about though, so the film has what he does best - witty dialogue and fascinating characters (albeit a fewer amount).

7/10 - Good

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