Quentin Tarantino aims to please, and, for most, he does. The director popularized non-chronological storytelling with Pulp Fiction. He made viewers thirst for blood with the gleefully violent Reservoir Dogs. And more recently, he showed his versatility and flaunted his style in the Kill Bill saga. His movies are entertaining not only because they look cool and take you places you'd never go, but because Tarantino incorporates his encyclopedic knowledge of film history. He's at his very best in his third film, Jackie Brown.
The film is probably the least popular of Tarantino's, but it's Jackie Brown that most clearly exhibits his familiarity with cinema. In this case, it's blaxploitation, and Tarantino clearly knows what he's talking about.
Jackie Brown is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's pulp novel, Rum Punch, and tells the story of $50,000 -- smuggled into the United States by the title character (played by Pam Grier, the female face of blaxploitation) for an illegal arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson). The film follows the tracks of those trying to get their hands on the cash, from the over-anxious Fed (Michael Keaton) and Jackson's stoner girlfriend (Bridget Fonda), to an old con (Robert De Niro) and Jackie's bail bond officer (Robert Forster). But it's Jackie who's in control, and Pam Grier effortlessly plays the middle-aged flight attendant with tricks up her sleeve. The story is no more than a modern-day crime drama, but with Tarantino's stylistic camera shots and punchy dialogue, it becomes something bigger and better.
The Collector's Edition, a two-disc set, boasts features that only further explain Tarantino's choice to direct Jackie Brown. The second disc includes Jackie Brown: How It Went Down, a documentary about the making of the film, a 54-minute interview with Tarantino and a handful of deleted scenes. But the best features are the "Chicks With Guns" video and the trivia track. You can watch the full infomercial of bikini-clad females with firearms, a program featured in an early Jackie Brown scene. The trivia track is less intrusive than a full voice-over, and gives the viewer tidbits of information about camera shots, script changes, cinematic references and quirky Tarantino moments on the set. It's features like these that explain his choice to tackle a less-than-popular film genre, and confirm that, among today's directors, Tarantino knows how to entertain us best.
Publication date: 09/02/04