The curiosity of Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown
is Robert Forster's worldly wise bail bondsman Max Cherry, the most alive character in this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch
. The Academy Awards saw it the same way, giving Forster the film's only nomination. The film is more "rum" than "punch" and will certainly disappoint those who are looking for Tarantino's trademark style. This movie is a slow, decaffeinated story of six characters glued to a half million dollars brought illegally into the country. The money belongs to Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), a gunrunner just bright enough to control his universe and do his own dirty work. His just-paroled friend--a loose term with Ordell--Louis (Robert De Niro) is just taking up space and could be interested in the money. However, his loyalties are in question between his old partner and Ordell's doped-up girl (Bridget Fonda). Certainly Fed Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) wants to arrest Ordell with the illegal money. The key is the title character, a late-40s-ish flight attendant (Pam Grier) who can pull her own weight and soon has both sides believing she's working for them. The end result is rarely in doubt, and what is left is two hours of Tarantino's expert dialogue as he moves his characters around town.
Tarantino changed the race of Jackie and Ordell, a move that means little except that it allows Tarantino to heap on black culture and language, something he has a gift and passion for. He said this film is for an older audience although the language and drug use may put them off. The film is not a salute to Grier's blaxploitation films beyond the musical score. Unexpectedly the most fascinating scenes are between Grier and Forster: two neo-stars glowing in the limelight of their first major Hollywood film after decades of work. --Doug Thomas
The documentary Jackie Brown: How It Went Down
is basically a vacuous cast-and-crew lovefest, but their enthusiasm is genuine, and the other bonus features are consistently worthwhile. A 54-minute interview with Quentin Tarantino seems excessive until you fully appreciate the writer-director's passionate devotion to movies and movie knowledge; film students are advised to listen attentively. The gem of the bunch, however, is the complete "Chicks with Guns" infomercial that's partially seen in Jackie Brown
; it's like the NRA meets the Snap-on tools calendar girls! For those seeking pop-cultural perspective, trailers for films starring Robert Forster and Pam Grier demonstrate the rigors of survival in Hollywood, making their Jackie Brown
comebacks even more gratifying. At least one deleted scene is a classic, as Grier cracks up Michael Keaton with an improvised zinger. Digging deeper, there's a well-chosen archive of reviews and articles, and DVD-ROM features allowing movie playback with informative text and trivia or side by side with the complete screenplay. --Jeff Shannon