Jackie Brown is surely one of Tarantino’s most underrated of films. That’s not really saying much, considering the media frenzy which usually surrounds everything that has his name on. Nevertheless, I felt that Jackie Brown deserved at least as much credit as Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction; two other of Tarantino’s films which seem to ooze an unprecedented amount of acclaim. I held back from watching the movie simply because I hadn’t heard anything about it. I assumed QT had a dud on his hands, but that really isn’t the case.
I guess Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s first attempt at having a strong female lead as the films primary protagonist, and although it took me some time to get used to Pam Grier’s performance, I did end up liking the result. The plot is a classic gangster/money/scam/drugs affair that aided in building the reputation of the director. Jackie Brown is a simple airline hostess, press ganged into smuggling money and drugs back to the United States for a small-time gun-runner, played by Samuel L. Jackson. She is caught by law enforcement agents and it isn’t long before she is forced to co-operate with their investigation. Along with the addition of her bail bondsman, a story of deception burgeons as the police attempt to capture the gun-smuggler, whilst Jackie seeks to serve her own interests in the ordeal.
The film is accompanied by a funk-tastic soundtrack. One of the aspects that hit me the most was how perfect the musical accompaniment was to almost every scene. The actor to steal the show for me was Sam L. Jackson. His character, while initially portrayed as a witless cavalier, soon blossomed into a frightening mastermind who, at times, seemed to be the only character who was in control and knew what was happening. Michael Keaton appears as 100% comedic gold, playing the policeman who reeks of ineptitude. I don’t know what it is about this guy that makes him a total legend, but he seems like he’s having a lot of fun in every one of his roles.
I thought the only negative aspect to the casting was Robert De Niro, which is quite a claim. His part was almost entirely useless. I’m not sure if it was intended as some sort of pretentious irony, to have one of humanities greatest actors play such an unchallenging bit part, but it didn’t fly with me. To think that De Niro still had films like Heat to follow Jackie Brown, even in this late stage of his career, made me wonder why he ever agreed to accept this stoner character who was about as stimulating as a Lemming.
But after all is said and done, I enjoyed myself throughout, and it was refreshing to see some lesser known actors stealing some of the limelight. The soundtrack alone makes this film seem ultimately ‘cool’, and I don’t think it should be overlooked as a weaker Tarantino film.