Jackie Brown (Retrospective Film Review)

Perhaps Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated feature, Jackie Brown is the writer/director’s tribute to the short-lived blaxploitation pictures of the 60’s and 70’s.

The first thing one notices are the great performances. Tarantino stalwart Samuel L. Jackson appears, as well as living legend Robert DeNiro and famous blaxploitation star Pam Grier. All of the performances are top-notch, an attribute that is all-too-rare in ensemble films. Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Robert Forster and Bridget Fonda round out the cast. This is one of those films where the actors don’t seem like they’re “acting”, all of the interactions are entirely believable.

Accordingly, the screenplay (an adaptation of the novel Rum Punch) meets the high standards Tarantino created with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Each character is distinctive and both comedically and dramatically they all play off each other really well. The eponymous character is written as a savvy and “street-wise” person who we can cheer for, despite her wrongdoings. She ultimately outsmarts everyone else, including Ordell Robbie (Sam J’s character), a simple crook who fancies himself as a big-time arms dealer.

Another highlight is the soundtrack, made up largely of the funk and disco popular in the heyday of blaxploitation. In his book Catching The Big Fish, David Lynch suggests that a piece of music must “marry” to the scene, and this seems to be Tarantino’s strong suit (another unforgettable instance is the use of “Little Green Bag” over the opening credits of Reservoir Dogs). That criteria is met in every scene, especially the Bobby Womack tune “Across 110th Street”, used in both the first and last scenes. The music always compliments and enhances the flick, an admirable trait that is far too scarce in film.

This brings us to the best thing about Jackie Brown: the film’s reality. Of any trait a film can have, this is probably the one I look for the most. After watching Jackie Brown, you do not feel as if you have seen a film. You feel as if you have had an experience. The actors, script, cinematography and soundtrack all join to create a vivid and resonant movie that is as memorable as it is rich.


Taylor Penny, Film writer at Seroword

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  1. I’d like to get your insight on the scene where Ordell shoots Louis. I’d like to think more of this scene than Ordell simply tying up loose ends to prevent his own incarceration the way he did with Beaumont. Ordell furrows his brow, pauses and thinks for a moment before pulling the trigger.

    I believe Ordell struggles with OCD (“Don’t touch my levels”). Do you think this affliction is forcing him to destroy his friend because of Louis’ inadequacies when he would rather not? Do you think he would rather see his friend deceased rather that see him become a shell of the criminal he used to be (“You used to be beautiful”)? Do you think he was trying to think of a better solution but could not? Or, do you think something sperate from these?

    Life is certainly full of difficult decisions. Obviously, we mustn’t go around shooting people, but we can draw parallels to other situational circumstances. In short, what is the lesson here from this scene?

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