Jackie Brown, which gave new life to Pam Grier and Robert Forster’s careers, marks the 25th anniversary of its theatrical release in 1997.
In Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, the filmmaker pays homage to the 1970s blaxploitation films. The gist of the film is that Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant who is smuggling money for Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) and authorities catch her in action. But before that happens, Ordell hires Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to bail out Ordell’s courier, Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker). Of course, Robbie ends up having his own courier killed just to prevent him from opening up to police. The police get enough information out of him for ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and LAPD detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) to arrest Jackie.
I’m not going to really dive into the rest of the plot here. It involves double-crossing, people getting killed, and a happy ending at the end. Well, as happy as an ending could possibly be for Jackie Brown when one factors in her ordeal.
Jackie Brown is a film that gives us the usual Tarantino trademarks. There is plenty of violence throughout the two and a half hour film. The pace could certainly use improvement as it was somewhat of a struggle to watch it in my apartment for the first time last week.
It’s no surprise then that Pam Grier was always in mind for the leading role of Jackie Brown. Grier’s career made her Tarantino’s top choice for the role. Her casting here would lead to both awards acclaim and a revitalization of her career. Next to Grier, it’s Robert Forster with a standout performance, earning the actor an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor. In another universe, Forster might not even have gotten an Oscar nomination. Could you imagine watching Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, or even John Saxon in the role? That’s not to say that Forster wasn’t in the running but a different fate of events could have changed history.
The film is not without controversy because of Quentin Tarantino’s use of a certain word. I personally will not use the particular word. I also understand why people are not happy with the frequency of its use in this film. Does Tarantino need to use it so much in this film? My guess is probably not. I’m aware of Spike Lee’s criticism of the film and he has every right to make his points. Quentin Tarantino is just going to do what he’s going to do and nothing that any of us say will change his mind.
Michael Keaton would later reprise the role of Ray Nicolette in an uncredited cameo appearance in Out of Sight. The character makes appearances in both Elmore Leonard novels and thankfully, both Miramax and Universal Pictures were able to work things out.
Pam Grier and Robert Forster turn in some of the best performances of 1997 in Jackie Brown.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Quentin Tarantino
CAST: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert De Niro
Miramax released Jackie Brown in theaters on December 25, 1997. Grade: 4/5
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