Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is one of the twenty-something films vying to feature in my top ten. Read about my search here, and see the current standings here, and to see just why Jackie Brown is in the running, read on…
WHY JACKIE BROWN?
This is my favourite Quentin Tarantino film.
Ok. Have you hit the roof, yet? I realise it’s quite a bold statement. I’m not arguing that the others aren’t cinematic gold, they are, but having arrived a little late at the QT party, for me Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have now become these monoliths of pop-culture references and endless spoofs, that instead of films, they feel like celluloid tents draped over the poles of 90s cinema’s grandest moments.
What sets Jackie Brown apart is that it has escaped culture-saturation and remains, as a film should be, a whole dramatic performance, consistent and lush. Since Jackie sashayed onto our screens, Kill Bill came along, and was once again a series of incredible killer moments with a film clinging on for the ride.
So I won’t for a minute try and take away anything from the rest of the films in the Tarantino oeuvre, but this double-crossing heist caper is certainly my favourite.
And what a super heist it is too. Watching Michael Keaton’s cop, completely unable to comprehend how, or even if, Jackie did something, is a real delight.
Jackie Brown is as smooth as Pam Grier’s performance as the titular air stewardess, and like the film, she is gentle, subtle and gorgeous. Tag-teaming with the effortless Robert Foster, who plays her seen-it-all-before bondsman and partner-in-crime (is stealing from criminals a crime?) is so pitch-perfect and watchable that you just wish he was in more films that you knew.
And of course, the bad guys. Sometimes watching Samuel L. Jackson can be a painful, scenery-chewing experience (see Unbreakable, Jumper and xXx), but then there’s Sam in Quentin’s hands – an unparalleled player, and in Jackie Brown, restrained, but still plenty evil.
LA feels like an adorable, seventies-esque neighborhood of quiet bars and dingy homes, and seeing the ‘big bad guy’ running around cleaning up his own mess instead of ordering minions around is, still, a refreshing change. Well, he does have one minion, little old De Nero, who for me, gives one of his career’s best performances: no showboating, no grandstanding, and not once threatening to steal a scene – so washed-up and wickedly watchable. The whole scene where De Nero ‘leaves’ Bridget Fonda in the car park, mid-heist, because she was pecking his head, and then casually explaining it away to Jackson is genius.
As with his first two films, Quentin went out of his way to avoid too firmly rooting this in its 1995 period, and so it feels older than its twenty years, but in a way that hasn’t aged a day. Top it all off with a trademark Tarantino soundtrack, and you have a perfect timeless classic.