The 70’s soul oozes off the screen in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which he based on Elmer Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch”. Not surprising since the soundtrack consists of artists like Bobby Womack, Randy Crawford and The Delfonics. In terms of style this is a love letter to the 70’s blaxploitation genre and the star of this movie is the very face of that genre: Pam Grier. 25 years after she starred in such movies as Foxy Brown, Coffy and a whole string of women in prison movies she finally stars in a role that was tailor-made for her. Significantly older but still possessing sex-appeal.
Grier is stewardess Jackie Brown who smuggles money for small-time illegal arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). When she gets caught by the ATF Ordell wants her dead because she could squeal on him. She convinces him to let her live in order to get the rest of the money she was smuggling for him, but she has other plans…
After the enormous and sudden success of Pulp Fiction all eyes were on Tarantino and his next movie. Jackie Brown would be at this point the first and still by now the only time he based his script on an existing story, and while Jackie Brown isn’t as good as Pulp Fiction it’s still an entertaining picture full of twists and turns as well as colorful characters. Most colorful is of course Ordell who is the main villain of the piece and gets the most fun lines. Legendary actor Robert De Niro also surprises because of the way he underplays his character of Louis. He is utterly believable as being some slow petty gangster. After Pulp Fiction put John Travolta back on the map Tarantino got a name of injecting dead careers of older actors with new fuel. Pam Grier and Rober Forster are pulled out of the moth balls and given a chance to shine. They both do, though due to their age they went back to smaller movie roles and TV work shortly after this movie. A shame I must say, especially since they are always fun to watch.
Other than a scene in a clothing store which is shown from different angles Jackie Brown is fairly straight forward. While other directors would still be mimicking Pulp Fiction the man who made Pulp Fiction does his best to structure as chronological as possible. For some people this would be a disappointment since Jackie Brown neatly wraps itself up at the end of the movie, and leaves little room for discussions like the ones Pulp Fiction generated. But in its own way Jackie Brown is a solid movie and would never be able to generate the impact Pulp Fiction did.
Tarantino gave us the best he could after Pulp, a groovy “heist” movie once again full of colorful characters and the same cool dialogue he became famous for. Most intriguing is the relationship between Max (Forster) and Jackie. There is a spark between the two, but they never let the heat of the moment get the best of them. Tarantino understands their lives, especially Jackie’s, are at this point too busy for a romance. A lesser writer would have given them a romance and/or a sex-scene, but when there’s possible prison time hanging above your head, sex is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Freedom is.