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Jackie Brown
1997 - R - 151 Mins.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Harvey Weinstein
Written By: Quentin Tarantino (based on the novel "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard)
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Bridget Fonda, Chris Tucker, Quentin Tarantino
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Where does a director go after making two colossal worldwide hits?

"Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994) were two of the greatest movies ever made, and they launched director Quentin Tarantino into the realm of Mainstream Hollywood Director. Most of the time, a director faced with this reality will sink into a slew of really bad movies, but so far Tarantino has been either extremely lucky or extremely talented - his third feature film, although lacking in the brutality of its predecessors, contains just as much wit. Based upon the Elmore Leonard novel "Rum Punch," it's packed with the clever dialogue that Leonard is known for in his writing. It's also got a good amount of style, too. It's not a typical Tarantino movie, but is that necessarily a bad thing? In this particular instance, no.

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight stewardess forced into running jobs for Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), a ruthless criminal who has no respect for life - or death, for that matter. However, during one of her smuggling efforts, a couple of FBI Agents (including Michael Keaton) nab her and offer her a deal: If she helps them get Ordell, she will be let free from custody. The Feds do not know who Ordell is, but they know he exists, and that is where Jackie comes in. She reluctantly agrees to participate in their sting operation, but all is not what it seems. And when $500,000 dollars disappears from his retirement fund, Ordell stops, thinks, and arrives upon the conclusion that we all anticipate with glee: Jackie Brown did it.

His partner in crime, Louis (the wonderful Robert De Niro), also decides to double-cross Ordell, with the help of a sexy blonde ditz named Melanie (Bridget Fonda), The movie's twisting plot line and intersecting storylines is very reminiscent of "Pulp Fiction," and De Niro's underrated performance is a real stand-out. The movie's quite well made and enjoyable.

Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. This is no "Reservoir Dogs," nor does it want to be. It's not in the same vein as Tarantino's other movies, at least not at a superficial level. However, it is extremely entertaining, helped along by a great cast and a terrific script. The only difference here is that Tarantino did not come up with everything by himself. He adapted the screenplay from another source, something he usually doesn't do. But there's also a little-known fact that Roger Avary co-wrote some of "Dogs" and "Fiction" with Tarantino, as well as sparked the idea for some of his films. Here, Quentin adapts Leonard's novel and does justice. People who say it isn't as good as his other movies because it's recycled obviously don't know what they're talking about.

Tarantino started out as a video store clerk, and is the movie buff's filmmaker. Not only does Tarantino share a deep passion for films, but he also knows what most of the real movie enthusiasts want. He has yet to disappoint me with any of his directorial efforts. His own life story would make an interesting movie, and indeed it did with "True Romance," partially based on Tarantino's own self-image of himself. (A geek working at a comic book store falls in love and goes off of an adventure into a new realm -- in Tarantino's own case, it was filmmaking. For Clarence, from "True Romance," it was drugs and murder.)

Tarantino has a flair for raw energy in all of his films, and "Jackie Brown" is no exception. The movie is bursting at its edges, packed with wild antics and the occasional fierce brutality. The movie was criticized by Tarantino's die-hard fans for being too different from his other films. However, the mistake of many directors is to repeat the same formulas over and over again. One must at least give Tarantino credit for trying new things in each of his films. If anything, the only thing that Tarantino likes to insert into all his films is a large source of energy. And is that a bad thing?
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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