You gotta have that funk: ‘Jackie Brown’

Jackie-Brown-movie-poster

Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

7/10  R

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough sassy funk. Okay, I can take it or leave it. But in Jackie Brown’s case, I’ll take it. In Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 suspenseful thriller, starring Pam Grier, Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, a bunch of criminals, former criminals, and cops-turned-criminals fight for half a million dollars. Who’s getting played and who’s just a playa? That’s for you to find out. And I promise, that surprise isn’t revealed until almost all of 154 minutes are over.

jackiebrowndvdv2_originalDe Niro and Jackson are in classic form. These aren’t their best performances, but they might be their most typical. Jackson’s the loud mouth gun trafficker that drops the n-word more times than Paula Deen. De Niro’s the subtle gangster type, an ex-con that never has much to say. Robert Forster…I’ve never even heard of him…was nominated for an Oscar for the role as a lonely bail bondsman. But it’s Pam Grier, known as much for a sweet afro in the 70’s as she is for this role, that really puts this movie away as a classic Tarantino crime-comedy. She’s a crafty flight attendant whose alliances are never truly know until the climax.

As far as Tarantino goes, “Jackie Brown” is pretty typical. With one exception: blood. There was hardly any at all. I think “Bambi” had more. If you know me, you know I like my cinematic blood splatter realistic. That’s why I never was too keen on Tarantino. But in “Jackie Brown,” he was able to keep an audience hooked with his overly-thorough dialogue, catchy soundtrack (with some Johnny jackie_brownCash and a lot of the Delfonics), and gripping mystery. Bravo, Quentin. But then apparently he liked all that blood enough to revisit it in the 21st century. Oh well.

If you know me, you also know that I like to keep my reviews relative to the genre they’re in. For a target audience of suspense-lovers and Tarantino freaks, “Jackie Brown” is about as good as it gets. It’s not the best movie in the world, but if it wanted to be that it would have been a period drama with a billion dollar budget. “Jackie Brown” isn’t for the masses, but if suspense and Tarantino appeal to you, it’ll be your cup of tea.

“Jackie Brown” is on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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2 thoughts on “You gotta have that funk: ‘Jackie Brown’

  1. Ah, Jackie Brown.

    It should have some kind of historical significance for being Tarantino’s least violent film (you’re right; now that I think about it, Bambi did have more blood, didn’t it?)…and yet it seems to me that it’s not very well known. Which is a shame.

    “Funk” is the right word for Jackie Brown; the movie, and heroine Pam Grier, have a calm, confident and sassy attitude that keeps it coasting right along in spite of its 2 1/2 hour running time. Suspense plays a big part in it, too; like some of the dialogue in old Hitchcock movies, Jackie Brown’s characters talk in deceptively casual tones and phrases that hide darker, violent motives.

    My favourite example of this is the scene where De Niro’s Louis Gara finally snaps and blows Melanie Ralston’s brains out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYyolVOqi90. It’s classic suspense; their earlier scenes perfectly foreshadow the steadily growing tension between the two characters. Gara’s a tough gangster long since gone to seed, and suffering from a midlife crisis. He meets the young, hot Ralston, and tries to reclaim some of his old virility. She’s just getting off and using him, and doesn’t take the weary fat schmuck seriously. Things slowly fall out between them, with Gara trying to assert himself, and Ralston being utterly unimpressed…until out of nowhere BANG!

    I knew it was gonna happen, but it was such a shocking thrill anyway. Tarantino just kept me hanging on the edge, waiting for the explosion.

    I’m a little disappointed Tarantino didn’t make more movies like Jackie Brown, actually. As Mike and Jay from Red Letter Media say, Tarantino could make great regular melodramas (http://redlettermedia.com/half-in-the-bag-extras-tarantino-and-more-2012-re-cap/). Instead, he’s making stuff like Django Unchained. Not that I’m complaining, as such. Django is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.

    Still, I just can’t help wondering what could have been had Tarantino chosen another, less Grindhousey path…

    1. I agree, I do wish Tarantino could have played around more with this type of stuff. And he could have made the movies he made without the unreasonable buckets of blood. He doesn’t really need a script re-write, but some logic. Thanks for reading!

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