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Taranthon Film Review: Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown (1997) is the third film directed by Quentin Tarantino. An adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, this crime thriller stars Pam Grier in the titular role, as well as Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro. When flight attendant Jackie Brown is caught in the middle of a huge conflict, she has to make a decision that may be worth $500,000, but also her life.

This is the simplest of the three Tarantino’s stories as of yet, but it helped make you feel grounded in the situation that Jackie Brown has been found in. This is not a story that needed constant jumps in time, and Tarantino here simply focuses on telling one story surrounding six vital characters. This is the most accessible film so far for a general audience member to get hooked into, and one that I could see people who don’t enjoy Tarantino’s work to even enjoy.

Despite how simple and focused the story is, there are still a bunch of twists and turns that the story takes you on, and I was not expecting quite a few of them. It is great to watch on a first-time viewing, as you try and predict what Jackie Brown is going to do and what she is plotting. You end up cheering her on in this film, because you recognise the situation that she is in, as well as how clever she is throughout the film.

Tarantino once again excels at the cinematography throughout this film. The opening sequence is one of my favourite title cards I have ever seen, and there are some distinctive camera shots, particularly with the shopping bags, that were so well framed and placed. No matter what scene of any of Tarantino’s films you are watching, you can pause it at any moment and it will be excellently framed and placed.

This is once again a superb cast, especially Pam Grier who is captivating as Jackie Brown. Samuel L. Jackson is also a stand out in this film, as he usually is with everything that he does. However, I found other performances in the film to be bland and lacking in personality. The main one here is Robert De Niro, who seemed to look bored throughout the entire film. I wanted him to be loud and break out, yet he never truly has a moment to do so. It felt like his character could have done with some extra oomph added to it.

Whilst I am fine with a story being simple and focused on one main point, I wish there was more development and side stories for a 2.5 hour film. I am sensing a pattern with Tarantino in that he can’t seem to cut anything out, even if it makes for a smoother and more cohesive narrative in his films. It almost felt too simple for a film this long, and that the story was simply being stretched out to fill the running time.

I also missed that style that I loved from the first two films of his filmography, from the loud and dramatic music choices, dance sequences and brutal, bloody murders. Sure, there were moments of violence in this film, but they all felt either contained or pushed to the back of the screen. This may be his most accessible film to date for a general audience, but it may be less appealing to someone that loves his dramatic and brutally fun style of filmmaking.

Whilst this may be my least Tarantino film in the collection so far, this is a film I could see growing on me. It’s the simplest story and the least stylised, but the personality of the characters and twists that unfold are fantastic and it may be even more fun to know what is going to happen and watch out for the twists. Unfortunately, I just found myself not connecting with the characters and story for this film in comparison to the rest of his collection.

What do you think of Jackie Brown? Do you appreciate the simplicity of it more, or did you miss the style that his other films seem to have? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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