Somewhere between the phenomenal success of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and his more controversial Kill Bill Volumes I and II, Jackie Brown was released.
Ever heard of it? No surprises if you haven’t as it seemed to slip into the shadows amongst Tarantino’s early hits and recent blockbusters. However, the charmingly witty, clever, compelling script and impeccable cast of Jackie Brown transforms it into an underrated hidden gem in Tarantino’s filmography.
Based on the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, Tarantino cast the B-movie star Pam Grier in the title role of his film adaptation. The casting of the African-American actress transformed the female heroine – a white women in the novel – into a figure of both female empowerment and black power.
Whilst it’s charm and unique postmodernist style that Tarantino has become known for may fall short of the high standards introduced in Pulp Fiction, it does not fall far. The least violent of all of Tarantino’s films, Jackie Brown retains the witty one-liners and likeable anti-heroes (or villains as they might be better described here) that make his scripts so enjoyable to watch.
Chris Tucker’s cameo provides the film with one of it’s funniest scenes whilst expressing Tarantino’s clever use of dark comedy and Tucker’s talents as a comedian and actor.
Another surprising turn for the film is that it arguably displays one of Robert De Niro’s most diverse performances. Famous for his dominating, rough talking, aggressive characters his brilliantly understated performance here as the quiet, solemn, dim-witted Louis deserves recognition as one of his finest performances.
Whilst some fans might be disappointed in the lack of Tarantino originality in the novel-based script, there remains a lot of his skill on display. While Samuel L. Jackson and Pam Grier walk into roles that seem to be written only for them, the film also provides brilliant performances from Robert Forster and Bridget Fonda. The film itself is filled from start to finish with memorable scenes, including a three-way scenario shopping mall sequence and a hit by the Delfonics that is perfectly placed to calm the suspense of one tension filled scene.
If you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino, or any of the actors mentioned here, then this one can’t be missed.