The Good: Excellent acting, Good story, Amusing, Intriguing characters, Good pace
The Bad: Some of the dialog, or more accurately, the diction of criminals.
The Basics: An excellent cast, utilized well and put in an interesting plot makes Jackie Brown a success. Bare with the language.
While nine out of ten reviewers might recommend the drug-filled, openly violent (and bloody), foul-language flick Pulp Fiction, by Quentin Tarantino, Jackie Brown is the best work of his I've yet seen. Well, to be fair to Tarantino, I've been itching to see Reservoir Dogs for years and I enjoyed his guest stint on Alias in that show’s first season.
The film is pretty simple in plot, despite the workings and reworkings of it throughout the film. Quite simply, Jackie Brown is about airline stewardess Jackie Brown who is smuggling money into the country for gun runner Ordell. In the process, Jackie is caught and extorted by the feds as well as aided by a bail bondsman named Cherry. After establishing the characters, Jackie Brown turns into a sting/heist/plan to smuggle in $500,000 and bring down Ordell in the process. As she works that whole angle, she and bail bondsman Cherry come closer and closer together.
What works in the film is not the glorified robber plot. Instead, it's the characters. They are interesting, to say the least. The gun runner surrounds himself with a classy smuggler, a mope of a hitman and a jailbait girl. Strangely, all of those characters have enough to them to watch over and over again.
Equally as good, they are well acted. While Samuel L. Jackson gives his usual great performance as the slick illegal arms dealer Ordell, the film is stolen by Robert Forster, who plays Cherry. His acting is subtle and he plays the part with a number of nuances; a tick of the eyebrow here, a subtle smirk there. His true greatness in this film is in his understated acting. His character is very realistic and he plays the character with a great deal of realistic detail that is often lacking in today's films. Cherry seems like someone any one of us might know, the benevolent friend who wants to see the good in everyone, though experience has taught him the opposite.
I credit that to Tarantino. The film's direction becomes rather important, even to those who don't usually notice direction. Tarantino, to his credit, captures the greatness of the actors at his disposal. Forster may be the best example, but he's not the only one. Pam Grier uses facial expressions well and with expert direction from Tarantino, they come through. Michael Keaton, who plays the federal officer who is hunting Ordell, gives a good performance that seems to be what he's good at, too; simple. His character stands out as one of the few that's flat (the other is Bridget Fonda's jailbait character). Actually, it's hard to tell if their acting is bad or they're playing poorly written characters exceptionally well. Go figure.
As it turns out, Jackie Brown is well paced, and one of the few films I can easily cite where the soundtrack is both noticeable and great. The series of songs - usually r&b by such artists as the Delphonics - is expertly used to enhance the film's visual elements.
Throughout the film there's a wonderful sense of movement, so even while two characters sit around doing drugs for a scene mulling over their options, the viewer feels like they are going somewhere. And the film picks up rapidly during the final sequence wherein Jackie attempts to foil all of her pursuers and get away with the money.
All in all, the movie comes together expertly, as do the machinations of Jackie Brown. My only true objections to the film were in language. Now I'm not usually a prude about language, but the word "nigger" is thrown around a little too often for my taste. I figure, however, that it works and isn't gratuitous here, in that the characters who keep throwing the word around are the same ones who are selling guns and doing drugs and it's pretty obvious language is just another tool being employed to illustrate the caliber of people they are.
For other works with Robert Forster, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past
Heroes - Season Three
For other movie reviews, check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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