Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker
Quentin Tarantino, based on the book Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Six players on the trail of a half a million in Cash. There's only one question ... Who's playing who?
$9.292 million on 1370 screens.
Rated R for strong language, some violence, drug use and sexuality.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 154 min.
Release Date: 10/4/2011
• Enhanced Trivia Track
• Soundtrack Chapters
• “Jackie Brown: How It Went Down” Documentary
• “A Look Back At Jackie Brown” Documentary
• “Breaking Down Jackie Brown” Featurette
• Deleted and Alternate Scenes
• “Chicks With Guns” Video
• Siskel and Ebert “At the Movies”
• Jackie Brown On MTV
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spots
• Still Galleries
• Robert Forster Trailers
• Pam Grier Trailers
• Pam Grier Radio Spots
• Sneak Peeks
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Jackie Brown [Blu-Ray](1997)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 18, 2011)
The cinematic landscape is littered with directors who couldn’t live up to the billing they earned with their breakout movies, but sometimes they do very well for themselves. For example, Steven Spielberg followed the massive success of 1975’s Jaws with another mega-hit in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Senor Spielbergo did flop with his next flick, however: 1979’s atrocious 1941.)
After the enormous sleeper success of 1999’s The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan suffered a modest setback with his next flick, 2000’s Unbreakable. However, that movie still did decent business - it definitely wasn’t a bust - and Shyamalan recovered with 2002’s Signs before he sank into a morass of general cinematic mediocrity.
Then there are the filmmakers who appear to totally vanish off the earth. When another sleeper hit - 1999’s The Blair Witch Project - led some to see Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez as pioneers in movie making, they responded with… not much of anything. They played no role in the creation of the flop sequel, and neither has done anything noteworthy in the 12 years since Blair Witch.
Quentin Tarantino earned critical praise and box office success with 1994’s Pulp Fiction. However, his next effort didn’t fare as well on either front. 1997’s Jackie Brown received mixed notices and encountered an indifferent public; the film made a mere $39 million at the box office, which fell far below the $107 million take of Pulp.
Does that mean Brown offers a weak experience? Definitely not, though the film never quite approaches the heights of Pulp. Of course, it never really attempts to do so. After two flashy and sassy films - including Tarantino’s debut, 1991’s Reservoir Dogs - the director went for something more low-key and subtle in Brown. While the movie fails to deliver the same visceral impact of its predecessors, it still offers a fairly compelling piece of work.
Not surprisingly, Jackie Brown features Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) as the protagonist. A middle-aged flight attendant for a minor airline, Jackie supplements her very meager income with money she receives from Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a vicious gun-smuggler. Jackie helps Ordell bring in cash from Mexico, but things start to go wrong for her when the authorities intervene. Represented by Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and Mark Dargas (Michael Bowen), they badly want to bust Robbie, and they entice Jackie to go along with a sting operation with the carrot that they can keep her out of jail.
Jackie goes along with this scheme - in a way. The plot becomes rather complicated, but essentially Jackie plans to toy with both the feds and Robbie while she escapes with the majority of Ordell’s more than $500,000. As an accomplice, she recruits Max Cherry (Robert Forster), her love-struck bail bondsman.
That synopsis greatly simplifies matters, and it also makes it look like the film mainly concentrates on Jackie. That isn’t really the case. In fact, I’d bet that Jackson enjoys as much - if not more - screen-time than Grier. Ordell’s story occupies the majority of the film’s first act, and honestly, the tale revolves more around his affairs than it does Jackie’s.
Still, I think the movie offers a pretty even split between the two, and we also find a reasonable amount of exposition accorded to Max as well as Ordell’s accomplices Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) and Melanie (Bridget Fonda). The latter’s a bitchy fading beach bunny who Ordell keeps around for some white girl credibility, while recent ex-con Louis plays a less concrete role. The slow-witted Louis doesn’t seem to be the best partner Ordell could want, but I suppose he possesses a fairly unquestioning loyalty, which makes him useful. Mostly, he gets stoned and screws Melanie, who exhibits open contempt toward both Louis and Ordell.
For the most part, I liked Jackie Brown, but it suffered from one significant flaw that didn’t mar Tarantino’s prior flicks: its star. After he brought John Travolta’s career back to life with Pulp, I guess Tarantino thought he could do the same for Grier.
However, two big differences existed between the pair. For one, Travolta remained more famous in his rough years than Grier was in the best of times; she never became anything more than a cult star. Additionally, Travolta possesses substantially higher amounts of talent. Though many of his performances can stink up the screen, when Travolta does his best, he provides very solid work.
Grier, on the other hand, can’t do much above and beyond her sassy attitude. When depth and true emotion need to appear in Jackie, Grier fails to deliver believable feelings. Instead, she comes across as wooden and detached, as though she can think about these elements but doesn’t know how to display them. She never seems natural, and she tends to overemphasize her line readings in a way that makes that stand out badly.
It doesn’t help that Jackie includes so many other talented actors. Jackson sparkles as Robbie. He displays enough charm to allow us to see why Ordell’s become fairly successful, but he also offers a sense of true menace when necessary. Jackson plays the coldness at Robbie’s heart in a compelling and believable manner.
Forster received a deserved Oscar nomination for his work as Max, and his low-key honesty in the part also accentuates the weakness of Grier’s performance. Both Max and Jackie should seem weary and somewhat beaten, but while Grier seems to play at that attitude, Forster makes us believe it. There’s a loneliness behind his eyes that makes Max a sad but likable and endearing character.
Fonda seems a little one-note as the conniving and mean-spirited stoner Melanie, but she brings enough sex appeal to the role to make her performance successful. Actually, given Ordell’s description of Melanie as less attractive than she used to be, Fonda might be too sexy; if she possessed any physical flaws, I sure couldn’t see them. Fonda takes the part and imbues it with the appropriate levels of bitchiness.
De Niro’s exceedingly low-key performance as Louis provides a real departure for him, one that some folks don’t seem to like. However, I think it works quite well. De Niro seems a little mannered at times, but he inhabits the role of the moronic ex-con nicely, especially when Louis’ darker side emerges. Many actors could handle the dopiness needed for the part, but few could bring to life both sides of the character.
Jackie lacks the brassiness and spark of Pulp, which may or may not be a weakness. Personally, I miss the older film’s spirit and energy, but this makes Jackie a Tarantino flick for those who don’t like Tarantino flicks. Folks who hated Pulp and Dogs tend to view Jackie much more favorably.
Overall, I liked Jackie Brown, but I didn’t think it equaled the pleasures of Pulp Fiction. Compared with Reservoir Dogs, things seemed more even. Jackie lacked the highs of that film’s best moments, but it also appeared more consistent and better integrated. Ultimately, Jackie Brown worked well, despite a fairly weak performance from its lead actress.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus A-
Jackie Brown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Few concerns cropped up in this attractive presentation.
Sharpness generally appeared good. Some wide shots seemed a little soft, but those didn’t dominate the film, and I suspected most stemmed from the film’s photographic style. Most of the movie came across as reasonably crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws weren’t a factor, as the film was clean at all times.
In terms of colors, Tarantino seemed to try for a thick look typical of Seventies flicks, which would account for the slightly excessive warmth of the hues. In any case, the tones looked good despite this attitude, and the disc handled some difficult situations well; for example, the red lighting in a nightclub came across as nicely tight and solid.
Black levels appeared fairly deep and dense, but shadow detail could be a bit too opaque; some low-light situations looked somewhat impenetrable. I suspect this was another photographic choice, though, so it didn’t bother me. Overall, I felt quite pleased with this appealing transfer.
Both of Tarantino’s earlier films provided fairly forward-intensive soundtracks, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of Jackie Brown did little to depart from that formula. However, the movie did expand the soundfield to a certain degree. In the front spectrum, music showed good stereo presence, and effects displayed a nice sense of ambience and setting. Not a lot of specific audio appeared, but the track offered a lot of general information that helped establish a sense of place. As for the surrounds, they also usually simply contributed to this environmental setting, but they did become moderately active at times. For example, the airport scenes bustled with appropriate auditory information.
Audio quality fared well. Dialogue sounded natural and crisp, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects seemed clean and accurate, and they packed a nice wallop when necessary, such as during scenes that featured gunfire. As always, music sounded bright and vivid, and the songs also appeared deep and rich. In the end, the audio of Jackie Brown didn’t reinvent any wheels, but it nicely complemented the film.
How did this Blu-Ray compare with those of the Collector’s Edition DVD from 2002? The audio came across as a bit warmer and livelier, while the image showed a mix of improvements. The Blu-ray looked more detailed and concise, and it also lacked the print flaws from the DVD. This made it a consistent step up over its predecessor.
We get a mix of supplements, most of which showed up on the DVD. The Enhanced Trivia Track provides a good text commentary to accompany the movie. It covers a wide variety of topics. We get notes about film techniques that appear during Jackie, changes made from the original script, information about the actors, director Quentin Tarantino, author Elmore Leonard and the musicians heard in the flick, and quite a lot of other details.
Occasionally, somewhat long gaps appear in the track, but usually the comments fly at a fairly rapid pace. It definitely offers a lot of useful information about Jackie. I especially enjoyed the brief look at Leonard’s writing rules.
Soundtrack Chapters lists 18 of the different songs heard in the movie and allows you to jump directly to them. This doesn’t add value for me, but others may like it.
Jackie Brown: How It Went Down provides a 38-minute and 55-second documentary about the film’s creation. It combines a few movie clips, lots of shots from the set, and interviews with Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, writer Elmore Leonard, editor Sally Menke, production designer Dave Wasco, set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, prop master Steve Joyner, and actors Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Bowen, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro.
The program covers the basics such as how Tarantino got attached to the project and changes between the film and the novel, but it largely concentrates on the actors and Tarantino. This is good to a certain level, as we hear some nice comments about the performances and Tarantino’s work on the set. However, it also means the show tends to come across as somewhat puffy, as we get lots of praise for the various participants. The documentary merits a look, but it seems a little thin and superficial overall.
Next we get an extended interview with Tarantino entitled A Look Back At Jackie Brown. The 54-minute and 42-second piece offers the simplest program on the disc, as it truly consists of nothing more than static shots of Tarantino as he chats with an off-screen interviewer. That’s fine with me, as I’m happy that the program’s producers didn’t try to spice it up with annoying gimmicks.
Tarantino almost always presents himself as a solid interview subject, and he gives us lots of interesting material here as well. Happily, he largely avoids facts heard elsewhere, as he mainly covers impressions from the set that deal with the actors. We hear about Chris Tucker, Tarantino’s reputation for reviving careers, Jackson, reactions to the flick, and quite a few other topics during this fairly engaging chat.
A new feature shows up with Breaking Down Jackie Brown. In this 43-minute, 49-second piece, we hear from critics Elvis Mitchell, Scott Foundas, Stephanie Zacharek, Tim Lucas, and Andy Klein. They discuss their initial viewings of the film, interpretation and critiques, and the movie’s legacy. This isn’t as interesting as the sibling discussion for Pulp Fiction, but it’s still a pretty good chat.
A fun addition, we get the full Chicks With Guns Video seen briefly during the movie’s early parts. This segment lasts four minutes and 52 seconds with a Tarantino introduction as well. I like this kind of addition, as it’s great to get a closer look at something that flies by pretty quickly during the movie itself.
Within the Deleted and Alternate Scenes section, we find six segments plus an introduction from Tarantino. Including the intro, these last a total of 15 minutes and 29 seconds. I don’t think any of the footage needed to be in the movie, but the scenes are fun to see. Note that the alternate opening clearly is a gag, so don’t expect something that really had a shot at making the final cut.
Next we see a clip from Siskel and Ebert At the Movies as the pair review of Jackie Brown. About half of the four-minute and 45-second piece shows snippets from the movie, which doesn’t leave much time for insightful commentary about the movie. Siskel and Ebert offer their quick opinions and not much else. Nonetheless, this offers a nice little archival piece.
Jackie Brown On MTV includes two pieces. “Jackie Brown Promotional Contest” lasts 63 seconds provides an ad to give away $25,000. It features Tarantino, Pam Grier, and Bridget Fonda as they tout the contest. “MTV Live Jackie Brown” runs 14 minutes, 22 seconds and it shows Tarantino, Grier and Fonda as they appear on a December 17, 1997 show hosted by Carson Daly and Ananda Lewis as they discuss the flick. It’s an insubstantial piece, but it’s a nice archival addition nonetheless.
Under “Marketing Gallery”, we get a mix of materials. We find three theatrical trailers - actually, all of these provide teasers. We also see eight TV Spots, 12 Robert Forster Trailers, 19 Pam Grier Trailers and seven Pam Grier Radio Spots. Also from Lionsgate delivers a promo for Reservoir Dogs. Posters shows eight images.
The Still Galleries domain breaks down into eight areas: “Production Stills” (161), “Behind-the-Scenes Stills” (210), “Location Scouting” (71), “Production Design Sketches and Logos” (28), “Memorabilia” (34), “Posters from Pam Grier Movies” (20), “Posters from Robert Forster Movies” (11), and “Soundtrack Covers from Pam Grier Movies” (7).
Jackie Brown marks a departure for Quentin Tarantino as he provides a film that seems more contemplative and slow-paced than his first two flicks. I prefer Pulp Fiction to Jackie, but the latter still offers a compelling and well-executed piece. The Blu-ray provides very good picture and audio along with a strong set of supplements. There’s a lot to like about this high-quality presentation of an involving movie.
To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of JACKIE BROWN