• James Rutherford

'Jackie Brown': Quentin Tarantino's Spirited Homage to Blaxploitation Cinema of the 1970's


Movie poster for the 1997 Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown (1997) is a spirited American crime film starring Pam Grier as the titular protagonist, a middle-aged flight attendant who routinely smuggles caches of illicit funds from Mexico into the United States. Operating at the behest of a vicious gun runner named Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), Brown is caught up in a complex web of treachery and chicanery after the arrest of Robbie's courier Beaumont (Chris Tucker).


Brought in on charges related to Robbie's operation, Beaumont is ultimately released on bail through the services of bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster)—while ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) confront Brown with incriminating information provided by Beaumont. She soon devises a plan with Robbie to feign cooperation with the authorities while smuggling half a million dollars of his money—a scheme that involves the participation of Robbie' former cellmate Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) and surfer girl accomplice Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda). In a complex game of cat-and-mice, Brown scrambles to deceive both sides of the law while ultimately aligning herself with Cherry, her only confederate amidst the full cadre of misdoers.


Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) in adaptation of the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown is a lively tale of hijinks and criminality in mid-1990's Los Angeles. Punctuated by Tarantino's trademark dialogue and wrought with winning performances from its entire ensemble, it's a wonderfully unique Leonard-Tarantino hybrid serving as a quintessential showcase for 70's-era icon Grier. Evenly-paced, narratively intricate and surprisingly endearing in tone, it's one of Tarantino's more under-appreciated efforts—one that seems to improve with each successive viewing.

 

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