This week, it’s 1997 and Quentin Tarantino has just made the best film of his career. Jackie Brown has been seen, but for the most part it has also been forgotten. This must be remedied.
Pam Grier stars as Jackie Brown, an airline stewardess caught coming back from Mexico with fifty thousand dollars of an arms dealer’s money. She’s arrested and put in a rather uncomfortable position. Enter Ordell Robbie, the arms dealer in question – he is a charming yet overly confident fellow who lives with Melanie (Bridget Fonda), his mistress of sorts and Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) an ex-con buddy of his who’s almost in for anything that’s offered by Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson).
Ordell bails Jackie out, which in turn creates a friendship between Jackie and the bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster). This friendship of sorts evolves into a scheme to get the rest of Ordell’s money from Mexico, all the while keeping Jackie out of jail and in the good books with the agents who want to take down Ordell and his gun running business. This interesting situation leads to one of the biggest double crosses ever hatched. Who is cheating who? Just how much can Jackie be trusted? And in the end, who will be the one to collect?
Why is this the forgotten movie to be acknowledged this week? Firstly [as mentioned earlier], it’s Quentin Tarantino’s best film and with Django Unchained being released in cinemas in New Zealand and Australia this week, we should all be reminded what Tarantino is capable of. Secondly, and more importantly, Jackie Brown is one of the greatest examples of character-driven storytelling. It has characters who on first impressions are blank canvases, but with even the slightest examination result in being three-dimensional, complex people just hoping to achieve some form of happiness and comfort. The camera doesn’t circle around characters who talk in whimsical proverbs. It stays back while these people interact with each other, and further advance the plot; which also never drops its guard and certainly never becomes predictable.
As much of a fan as I am of Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown has a quiet intelligence and respect for its story and characters, that [in many films] has since been lost amidst the fancy camera shots and ridiculous, yet entertaining set pieces. This film doesn’t intend to prove anything other than that these characters are worth your time. No gimmicks exist throughout Jackie Brown‘s entire runtime. It utilises every resource it has to tell a good story, and it’s something other films can learn from.
The performances in this film are something to behold. We all know Tarantino gets the best out of his actors (his on-screen attempts excluded), but this is where he earns his stars and stripes. Robert Forster, Pam Grier, Samuel L Jackson, Robert DeNiro and Bridget Fonda are all as exceptional. Not for one second do they try and out-act each other or over sell their dialogue. It’s nuanced performances and all career bests.
With a sense of humour that’s almost impossible to ignore and a plot that unravels with precision and tension, Jackie Brown is that rare movie specimen that treats its audience with respect and care. You’re charmed into loving everything that happens from the second the opening credits pop up, to the final scene which is literally just perfect. Quentin Tarantino hit his peak with Jackie Brown, which is a masterclass in grounded film-making that invites its audience to think and feel for themselves. An odd concept, right?
Oh and Jackie Brown also has one of the greatest film soundtracks of all time. I’m not even kidding. Now go re-watch this film; feel bad for a second for not realising its potential at first, then feel wonderful at the fact that a movie like this was even made.
A true masterpiece.
By Chris Elena